Facts and Questions
Here at the American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative, we make it our mission to spread awareness about the importance of lung cancer screening for high-risk individuals. Learn more about lung cancer and lung cancer screening here.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States.
The most important risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. Other major risk factors for lung cancer include secondhand smoke, radon, asbestos, air pollution, previous radiation to the lung, toxins (e.g. arsenic, cadmium), and personal or family history of lung cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, accounting for approximately 136,000 annual deaths. Every year, lung cancer causes more deaths than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined.
Currently, most lung cancers are diagnosed at a late stage. 64% of lung cancers are diagnosed at Stage III/IV, while only 25% of lung cancers are diagnosed at Stage I. Increasing the number of lung cancers diagnosed at an early stage through lung cancer screening is key to saving lives.
What are computed tomography (CT) scans?
A low-dose CT scan is the only recommended way to screen for lung cancer. It uses a computer and x-rays to create a detailed image of your lungs. Getting a CT scan does not hurt, and it typically takes less than 5 minutes.
What are the risks of getting a low-dose CT scan?
For almost all patients, getting a low-dose CT scan is something safe to do. But do talk to your doctor about the downsides of the screening. The primary downside is that the CT scan may lead to further invasive testing in pursuit of something that looks like cancer but is not cancer. Radiation from repeated screening can also cause cancer but the risk of getting radiation-induced cancer is low.*
*Rampinelli, C.; De Marco, P.; Origgi, D.; Maisonneuve, P.; Casiraghi, M.; Veronesi, G.; Spaggiari, L.; Bellomi, M., Exposure to low dose computed tomography for lung cancer screening and risk of cancer: secondary analysis of trial data and risk-benefit analysis. Bmj 2017, 356, j347.
How much radiation is in a CT scan?
Patients are exposed to radiation levels that range from 1.5-2.0 millisievert (mSv).* This is less than the annual radiation dose from exposure to the environment through ingestion, cosmic radiation, and inhalation.
Is lung cancer screening an alternative to smoking cessation?
The best way to reduce lung cancer mortality is through both lung cancer screening and smoking cessation. Smoking cessation is the number one way to prevent lung cancer. There are different services and programs to assist with smoking cessation.
who should get screened?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for adults who meet the following criteria:
Ages 50 to 80, and
Have a 20 pack-year smoking history*, or more, and
Be a current or former smoker who quit within the past 15 years
*20 pack-year means 1 pack a day for 20 years or 2 packs a day for 10 years. There are 20 cigarettes in 1 pack.
Risk-based NLST Outcomes Tool (RNOT) is a tool created by the National Cancer Institute that can determine your risk of getting lung cancer. RNOT is
based on the results of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST).
The Online Lung Cancer Risk calculator was created by the University of Michigan. It uses the Tammemagi risk prediction model (also know as the PLCOm2012 risk prediction model) to estimate your risk of getting lung cancer.
*These risk calculators are based on prediction models. Therefore, they are estimations. If you have any questions or concerns after using these tools, ask your healthcare provider.
Finding Screening Centers
You can find American College of Radiology (ACR) accredited lung cancer screening centers on the American College of Radiology's website. To get screened for lung cancer, talk to your primary care provider for a referral to an accredited lung cancer screening center.
screening cost & insurance coverage
Lung cancer screening typically costs $300 to $500. Medicare and Medicaid will cover the cost of an annual lung cancer screening if you meet the USPSTF criteria. Most private insurance plans will cover the cost. If you have questions about your insurance coverage of lung cancer screening, call your insurance company and ask.