Lung screening is recommended for people who are at risk for lung cancer. If you currently smoke, or smoked in the past, you are at risk and would benefit from lung screening. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking is linked to about 90% of all lung cancer deaths in the United States. If lung cancer is detected at an early stage, it's more likely to be cured with treatment.
What is lung cancer screening and is it right for me?
Lung cancer screening uses a computed tomography scan, also called a CT, to find cancer early, even when there are no symptoms. You lie on a cushioned table inside the scanner that looks like a large ring. The table is raised and slowly moves through scanner to make detailed pictures of your lungs. A technologist monitors you during the scan and most people have little or no discomfort during the scan.
If you answer yes to either of the following questions, the lung screening program may be right for you.
- Are you between the ages of 55 and 80, and do you smoke, or did you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 or more years?
- Are you between the ages of 50 and 80, and do you smoke, or did you smoke a pack a day for 20 or more years AND have at least one of the following?
- A father, mother, sister, or brother with history of lung cancer.
- Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or if you were exposed to asbestos.
- Lung cancer that was cured more than 5 years ago.
You should discuss the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening with your health care provider. If you choose to participate, you will have lung screening every year. Your health care team will talk with you how the program works and about possible findings. After each screening your health care team will follow up with the results.
Help to quit smoking
Stopping smoking has a much greater chance of saving your life from lung cancer than CT screening alone. For smokers who have struggled to quit, Mayo Clinic's Nicotine Dependence Center offers caring and non-judgmental support to help you develop the skills needed to stop using tobacco.
Insurance coverage and lung screening
Medicare covers the cost of lung screening for people who:
- Are between 65 and 77 years old.
- Currently smoke or have quit within 15 years.
- Have smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years or more.
If you are at high risk for lung cancer but don’t meet these guidelines, CT lung screening may not be covered by your health insurance. Talk to y our health insurance company before your screening appointment to find out what will be covered.
For additional information about lung cancer and lung cancer screening:
Dr. Aaron Mansfield, Medical Oncologist at Mayo Clinic, explains who should be screened for lung cancer, on the Mayo Clinic Q & A Podcast (video 27:41), July 2021.
Have you been screened for lung cancer or participated in a lung cancer screening trial? What has been your experience with lung cancer screening? Feel free to share your experiences here.
Find support from people like you on the Mayo Clinic Connect: