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Treatments & Procedures

Lung Cancer Screening Program of the Cleveland Clinic Chest Cancer Center

What is screening?

Screening means that a test is done to look for a disease before the disease has caused someone to have symptoms. The goal of screening is to detect the disease early in its course, when it is easier to treat.

Benefits of lung cancer screening

You can be screened for lung cancer using a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans combine X-ray views from multiple angles, creating a two-dimensional, cross-sectional image of your lungs.

Having a lung cancer screening chest CT reduces the chance of dying from lung cancer by 20 percent in those at very high risk of developing lung cancer. This means that for every five people who would have died from lung cancer without screening, one of these five will not.

Eligibility for lung cancer screening

To be a candidate for lung screening, an individual must be:

  • 55 to 74 years old.
  • A smoker or a person who quit smoking less than 15 years ago.
  • Have a smoking history of 30 pack-years. (A pack year is a way of determining how many cigarettes a person has smoked during his or her lifetime. One pack year is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes, or one pack, every day for one year.)

Drawbacks to consider

Screening for lung cancer with a chest CT can find small spots in the lungs of at least 25 percent of all people who get the scan. These spots are called lung nodules. Only three or four out of 100 lung nodules found are cancer. The rest are small scars that will never affect your health.

There is no way to tell if many of these small lung nodules are scars or lung cancer without further tests. CT scans are usually done over time to see if the lung nodule grows. You might need a biopsy if the lung nodule is large enough.

Therefore, many people who are screened will have further tests without actually having lung cancer. The doctor who orders the screening test will talk with you about whether or not you need more tests. The doctor also may ask you to visit our Lung Nodule Clinic.

Lung cancer screening CTs use a very small dose of radiation to take pictures of your lungs. The dose of radiation is quite low (five times less than a standard chest CT scan). The effects of radiation from lung cancer screening are not known. The benefits are thought to outweigh any consequences.

At this time, most insurers do not cover the cost of a lung cancer screening chest CT. The out-of-pocket cost for this test is $125. The evaluation of any abnormal findings is usually covered by insurance.

Quitting smoking

If you smoke, you can cut your risk of dying from lung cancer by quitting. Quitting smoking will lower your risk more than having a CT screening for lung cancer. We advise all smokers to quit. You can find help from your doctor or through our Tobacco Treatment Center. Call 1.216.444.8111 for an appointment.

Test results

The doctor who orders your lung cancer screening chest CT will get a report on the test within one week. The doctor will share the results with you and talk about any other tests that you might need.

Components of our Lung Cancer Screening Program

  1. Standardized low-dose chest CT.
  2. Chest CT interpretation by radiologists with expertise in chest imaging.
  3. Lung nodule evaluation clinic.
  4. Tobacco treatment program.
  5. Experts in the treatment of lung cancer.
  6. Central call-in number for questions.
  7. Cutting edge research to improve on the screening program.


If you have any questions about our Lung Cancer Screening Program, please call 1.216.445.3800.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 5/4/2012…#15031