Lung Cancer Screenings: Who Should Get One?

Prevention & Awareness

January 30, 2018

Are you a smoker or have you ever been? If so, now is the right time for a candid conversation about lung cancer screenings. Who should get one?

Who is at risk?

Since lung cancer rarely shows early symptoms, those who are at risk but otherwise healthy should take note. According to the American Cancer Society, people “aged 55 to 74 years who have at least a 30-pack-year smoking history, currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years” should consider a yearly lung cancer screening. A pack year means one pack of cigarettes per day for a year. For example, a person could have 30 pack years by smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or by smoking two packs of cigarettes per day for 15 years.

What happens during a lung screening?

The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is through a low dose computed tomography, also called a low dose CT scan or LDCT.

Are there risks involved?

Like all cancer screenings, there are risks involved with lung cancer screenings. An LDCT can detect spots that look like but are not actually cancer. Additional tests may be needed. Patients are also exposed to a small amount of radiation.

What are the signs and symptoms of lung cancer?

Early warning signs for lung cancer are uncommon, but sometimes occur. The American Lung Association lists the most common symptoms as:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away and gets worse over time
  • A chronic cough or “smoker’s cough”
  • Hoarseness
  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Frequent lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Coughing up blood

Is screening covered by insurance?

Lung screenings are covered by most insurance, Medicare and Medicaid for those who meet the criteria above.

How can I reduce my risk?
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Have your home tested for radon.
  • Limit your exposure to carcinogens.

To reduce your risk for lung cancer (and all cancers) even further, adopt a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables and exercise on most days.

For help quitting smoking or for additional information and resources on quitting, visit the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout page