According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. This is often because it is not detected during the earliest and most treatable stages. However, low-dose computed tomography (CT) lung scans are changing our ability to screen for lung cancer – and help more people experience better outcomes.
There are several factors that can increase your risk for developing lung cancer:
- Smoking cigarettes – This is the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer. Your risk increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke each day and how many years you’ve smoked.
- Secondhand smoke exposure – Regular exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risk for developing lung cancer.
- Exposure to radon gas – Unsafe levels of radon gas can accumulate in buildings, including homes.
- Exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens – Some professions increase exposure to asbestos and other carcinogens.
- Family history – Having a parent or sibling with lung cancer may also increase your risk for developing the disease.
Finding lung cancer during its earliest stages increases your chances for a better outcome. Although many patients ask about chest x-rays to screen for lung cancer, there’s no evidence they help detect disease in the earlier stages. Currently, low-dose CT scans are the only recommended method for lung cancer screening.
To qualify for lung cancer screening, you’ll need to meet recommendations established by the United States Preventive Services Task Force:
- Between ages 50 and 80 AND
- A smoking history of at least 20 pack years AND
- A current smoker or have quit within the past 15 years
A pack year is defined as smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year.
Your primary care provider can counsel you on lung cancer screening and if it’s right for you. If you decide to get screened, they can help you find a screening location.
During the screening, you’ll lie on a table that slides through the center hole of what looks like a large donut. The CT machine takes pictures of your upper body. The test is painless and only takes a few moments to complete.
Results are typically released electronically after the radiologist reviews the images. You’ll hear from your provider within a couple of days to discuss the findings.
Edward-Elmhurst Health offers low-dose CT lung screenings at locations throughout our health system. Contact your primary care provider to find out if a low-dose CT lung screening is right for you. To schedule a screening, call 630-527-3200.