Q: Is there a way to screen for lung cancer?
A: Lung cancer has historically been one of the deadliest cancers because there was no good way to screen for it. By the time it caused symptoms, the cancer had generally already progressed to later stages that were harder to treat. That changed with the development of low-dose CT scans, a type of imaging test that takes pictures of your body from various angles and pieces them together using a computer. Screening high-risk current or former smokers can identify lung cancer at an earlier stage, when the cancer is easier to treat.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose CT scans for otherwise healthy adults age 55 to 80, who have a 30-pack year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. (A pack year is equivalent to smoking a pack a day for a year, or two packs a day for six months.)
The American Lung Association has developed an online eligibility quiz, at savedbythescan.org, to help you determine whether you should be screened. An estimated 9 million Americans are considered at high risk for lung cancer, but surveys indicate that 84 percent of them are unfamiliar with the screening option.