Screening is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage when it may be easier to treat. Lung cancer may have spread by the time a person has symptoms. One reason lung cancer is so serious is because it usually is not found until it has spread and is more difficult to treat.
Screening may provide new hope for early detection and treatment of lung cancer. Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. They look at results over time to see if finding the cancer early decreases a person's chance of dying from the disease.
Three screening tests have been studied to see if they decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer:
- Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. Chest x-ray is no longer recommended for screening.
- Sputum cytology: Sputum cytology is a procedure in which a sample of sputum (mucus that is coughed up from the lungs) is viewed under a microscope to check for cancer cells
- Low-dose spiral CT scan: A procedure that uses low-dose radiation to make a series of very detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
Of these tests, studies showed that only low-dose spiral CT (LDCT) scan reduced the risk of dying from lung cancer in high-risk populations. Chest x-ray and sputum cytology are two screening tests that have been used to check for signs of lung cancer but do not decrease the risk of dying from lung cancer.
Resources for You
Considering screening for lung cancer can bring up a variety of questions. Use the resources below to help you understand lung cancer screening.
Should You Get Screened for Lung Cancer?
- Is Lung Cancer Screening Right for Me?
Learn about what makes someone eligible for lung cancer screening.
- Interactive Lung Cancer Screening Tool
Use our interactive online tool to determine if lung cancer screening is recommended for you.
Tools For Scheduling a Screening
- Printout to Take to Your Doctor
If you are at high risk for lung cancer screening, take this printout to your doctor to help the two of you discuss next steps.
- What to Look for in a Lung Cancer Screening Facility
If you are eligible for lung cancer screening, use this guide to help you find an experienced lung cancer screening facility.
Lung Cancer Screening Insurance Coverage
- Patient-Friendly Insurance Chart
Learn about lung cancer screening for each insurance type in an easy to understand way.
- Lung Cancer Screening Insurance Checklist
Use the talking points on this checklist to help you discuss lung cancer screening coverage with your insurance company.
- Lung Cancer Screening Coverage Chart
Learn about lung cancer screening for each insurance plan type.
- Medicare Coverage for Lung Cancer Screening: Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answers to many of the commons questions people have about Medicare and lung cancer screening coverage.
- American Lung Association Statement on the CMS Decision Coverage on LCDT Screening
Read the Lung Association's response to Medicare's decision to cover lung cancer screening.
For Health Professionals
- Should My Patient Be Screened?
Review the criteria to determine if your patient is eligible for lung cancer screening.
- Talking With Your Patients about Screening for Lung Cancer
Use this document from the USPSTF to help you discuss lung cancer screening with your patients.
Providing Guidance on Lung Cancer Screening to Patients and Physicians
This report (April 2015) is an update on lung cancer screening from the American Lung Association Lung Cancer Screening Committee.