At Mission Cancer Care...

We Treat the Whole Patient

Low-Dose Lung Screening Program

Yearly lung screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) has been shown to save lives by finding lung cancer early, when it is easier to treat. This handout answers many questions that people have about LDCT lung screening. If you have any additional questions, please call 828-213-2506.

Lung Screening FAQs

What is the goal of LDCT lung screening?

The goal of LDCT lung screening is to save lives. Without LDCT lung screening, lung cancer is usually not found until a person develops symptoms. At that time, the cancer is much harder to treat.

Am I eligible for lung cancer screening?

You are eligible for an annual LDCT to screen for lung cancer if you meet these criteria:

  • Age 55 to 77 years old
  • A 30 "pack year" or greater history of smoking
    • A "pack year" is calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years you have smoked
  • Current smoker or have quit within the past 15 years
  • No symptoms of lung cancer such as new cough, worsening shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, coughing up blood or chest pain
  • Able and willing to tolerate treatment if lung cancer is discovered
Why does it matter if I have symptoms?

Certain symptoms can be a sign that you have a condition in your lungs that should be evaluated and treated, if necessary, by your healthcare provider. These symptoms include fever, chest pain, a new or changing cough, shortness of breath that you have never felt before, coughing up blood or unexplained weight loss. Having any of these symptoms can greatly affect the results of the lung screening and may actually delay the treatment you may need.

Do I need to have an LDCT lung screening exam every year?

Yes. LDCT lung screening exam is recommended every year until you are 77.

How effective is LDCT lung screening at preventing death from lung cancer?

Studies have shown that LDCT lung screening can lower the risk of death from lung cancer by 20 percent in people who are at high risk.

How can I get screened for lung cancer?

LDCT screening for lung cancer requires a referral from your doctor. Talk to your doctor about your risk for the disease and discuss your eligibility for screening.

How is the exam performed?

LDCT lung screening is one of the easiest screening exams you can have. The exam takes less than 10 seconds. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can eat before and after the exam. You do not even need to get changed as long as the clothing on your chest does not contain metal. You must, however, be able to hold your breath for at least 6 seconds while the chest scan is being taken.

Are there any risks to LDCT lung screening?

There are several risks and limitations of LDCT lung screening. We want to make sure that we have done a good job explaining these to you, so please let us know if you have any questions. Your healthcare provider who ordered the screening may want to talk with you more about this:

  • Radiation exposure: LDCT lung screening uses radiation to create images of your lung. Radiation can increase a person’s risk of cancer. By using special techniques, the amount of radiation in LDCT lung screening is small—about the same amount a person would receive from a screening mammogram. Further, your doctor has determined that the benefits of the screening outweigh the risks of being exposed to the small amount of radiation from this exam.
  • False negatives: No test, including LDCT lung screening, is perfect. It is possible that you may have a medical condition, including lung cancer, that is not found during your exam. This is called a false negative.
  • False positives/additional testing: LDCT lung screening may find something in the lung that could be cancer but in fact is not. This is called a false positive. False positive tests often cause anxiety. In order to make sure these findings are not cancer, you may need to have more tests. These tests will be performed only if you give us permission. Occasionally, patients need a procedure, such as a biopsy, that can have potential side effects. For more information on false positives, see “What can I expect from the results?” below.
  • Findings not related to lung cancer: Your LDCT lung screening exam also captures images of areas of your body next to your lungs. In a small percentage of cases (5-10 percent), the CT scan will show an abnormal finding in one of these areas, such as your kidneys, adrenal glands, liver or thyroid. This finding may not be serious; however, you may need to be examined further. Your healthcare provider who ordered your exam can help determine what, if any, additional testing you may need.
Is lung cancer screening covered by insurance?

LDCT to screen for lung cancer is covered by Medicare and private insurance plans for eligible patients.

What if lung cancer screening is not covered by my insurance?

A cash pay option of $250.00 is available, at time of service, for patients who are uninsured or do not have plans that cover LDCT lung screening.

What can I expect from the results?

About 1 out of 10 LDCT lung screening exams will find something in the lung that may require additional imaging or evaluation. Most of the time these findings are lung nodules. Lung nodules are very small collections of tissue in the lung. These nodules are very common, and the vast majority—more than 97 percent—are benign (not cancer).

Less commonly, lung nodules are cancer. If a small lung nodule is found to be cancer, the cancer can be cured more than 90 percent of the time. That is why we are screening you. To distinguish the large number of benign (noncancerous) nodules from the few nodules that are in fact cancer, we may need to get more images before your next yearly screening exam. If the nodule has suspicious features (for example, it is large, has an odd shape or grows over time), we will refer you to a specialist for further testing.

When will I get my results?

You will receive the results of your exam within 2 weeks. If you do not hear from us within 2 weeks, please be sure to call us at 828-213-0695.

Will my doctor also receive the results?

Yes. Your healthcare provider who ordered your exam will receive a copy of your results.