Screening means that a test is done to look for a disease, in someone at risk of developing the disease, before the disease has advanced enough to cause symptoms. The goal of screening is to reduce the number of people who die from the disease by detecting the disease early in its course, when it is easier to treat, with minimal harm to those who are screened.
Lung cancer screening refers to testing a healthy individual at high risk for developing lung cancer who has no symptoms of lung cancer in hopes of finding lung cancer at a stage that it can be cured. Low-dose chest CT-based screening has been found to reduce the number of people who die from lung cancer with acceptable risks when performed in a high quality setting.
To be a candidate for lung screening, an individual must be:
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.
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.
If you have any questions about the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Cleveland Clinic, 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 healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 05/25/2018