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URMC / UR Medicine Lung Cancer Screening Program / Frequently Asked Questions

 

Frequently Asked Questions

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Screening is the non-invasive process of looking for a disease such as cancer in people who don’t have symptoms. Lung cancer screening uses a Low Dose CT scan (LDCT) to look closely at the lungs each year. Research has shown that using LDCT scans to screen people at higher risk of lung cancer saves lives.

People 50 to 80 years old who: 

  1. Currently smoke or quit cigarette smoking within the past 15 years.

    AND
  2. Have at least a 20 pack-year cigarette smoking history.

This is the number of years you smoked multiplied by the number of packs of cigarettes per day. For example, someone who smoked 2 packs per day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has a 20 pack-year smoking history. A person who smoked 1 pack per day for 20 years [1 x 20 = 20] also has a 20 pack-year smoking history.

No. At this time, there has not been sufficient research on risk factors other than cigarette smoking. It is possible that future recommendation could include risk factors other than cigarette smoking.

  • The exam will be billed to your insurance company. Under the Affordable Care Act, most insurance companies are required to cover lung cancer screening without cost sharing for qualified patients.
  • If you do not have insurance, certain state or local agencies may provide screening at no or a low cost.
  • The American Lung Association has an interactive chart on their website detailing insurance coverage for lung screening.
The CT scan takes about 5 minutes in total (with setup and scanning time). The scan itself only takes a few seconds. We ask that you arrive 15 minutes early to allow for check-in.
No. Low dose lung screening CT is quick and painless. No oral or IV contrast is required.
For the maximum benefit you should have annual screenings for as long as you meet the screening criteria (Question 1 above). Being screened each year provides the best chance to catch any new cancers at an early, treatable stage.

Sometimes screening tests will show something abnormal in the lungs or nearby areas that might be cancer. Most of these abnormal findings will turn out not to be cancer, but more CT scans or other tests will be needed to be sure. CT scans of the lungs can also sometimes show problems in other organs that just happen to be in the field of view of the scans. Your health care provider will discuss any such findings with you if they are found.

A chest x-ray can only show your chest from the front or the side while a CT scan shows many cross-sectional images (slices) throughout your chest. Because of this advantage, CT scans can find cancers at a much smaller size than chest x-rays can. Unlike CT lung screening, screening with chest x-rays was not found to save lives.

CT screening uses a lower dose compared to standard CT scans, typically between 1-2 mSv (millisieverts). This is less than one quarter of the radiation received in a standard chest CT.

A possible drawback of this test is that it also sometimes finds abnormalities that turn out not to be cancer, but that might still need to be checked out with further tests. For example, some people might need additional tests such as other CT scans, or even more invasive tests such as needle biopsies or surgery to remove a piece of lung. These added tests might rarely lead to serious complications, even in people who do not have lung cancer.

While annual CT scans can identify cancers at an early treatable stage, stopping cigarette smoking can help prevent lung cancer from developing. Stopping smoking combined with annual Low Dose CT screening is more effective than annual CT screening alone.

If you smoke cigarettes, we can help you get counseling about stopping. To learn more about resources to quit smoking, please call a tobacco specialist at (585) 287-4539 or email quitcenter@urmc.rochester.edu.