Computed Tomography (CT) Scans for Lung Cancer Screening
In The News
UW Health radiologists use computed tomography (CT) scans as the most advanced form of lung screening available to detect nodules and abnormalities in the lungs, and possibly lung cancer in its earliest stages. Detecting lung cancer in early stages provides a better opportunity for cure.
This lung cancer screening is for high-risk individuals. Eligible candidates for CT lung cancer screening:
• Between the ages of 55 and 80 years (Medicare covers up to age 77)
• Are current smokers who have smoked at least one pack per day for 30 years or more or are former smokers who have smoked at least one pack per day for 30 years or more but quit fewer than 15 years ago
• A current or former smoker (former smokers must have quit within the past 15 years)
• From 55 to 77 years old
• A smoking history of at least 30 pack-years, meaning one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years, etc.
• Exhibiting no symptoms of lung cancer
Setting Up a Screening
If you are interested in a CT scan to screen for lung cancer, talk to your primary care provider. Physician referrals are required for this lung cancer screening. Your physician's office can help coordinate the referral.
How will I be screened?
The CT scanner is a large, donut-shaped chamber that houses an X-ray tube and a detector that sends information to a computer. During the procedure, you will lie on a couch that gradually slides through the CT scanner's chamber as the scanner takes pictures using X-rays. The part of your body to be scanned is positioned in the middle of the scanner ring. You will be asked to keep as still as possible during the scan, and you may be asked to hold your breath (for 10-20 seconds) periodically throughout the scan.
What happens if the screening shows an abnormality?
Many nodules (up to 95 percent) that are found during the screening are not cancerous. If your CT scan shows an abnormality, your physician will contact you with the results and help schedule further testing and pulmonary medicine follow-up. The type of follow-up performed will depend on the nodule size and shape.
How often should I be screened?
The current guidelines for eligible, high-risk individuals recommends an annual screening.
Where can I get a screening?
The lung cancer screening is available at the following locations:
Does insurance cover the cost of the screening or follow-up care?
Private insurance is required under the Affordable Care Act to provide coverage for lung cancer screening. Medicare also authorizes coverage for certain patients. Patients should check with their insurance plan for details. If you are a Medicare patient, talk to your doctor to see if you qualify for a lung cancer screening CT.
What are the recommendations for this screening?
As of December 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends low-dose computed tomography in adults 55 to 80 who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
The USPSTF makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients without related signs or symptoms. It bases its recommendations on the evidence of both the benefits and harms of the service and an assessment of the balance. Learn more