What are the 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 in those at very high risk of developing lung cancer.

What are the risks of lung cancer screening?

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 lung cancer screening program will talk with you about whether or not you need more tests. 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.

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