Lung Cancer Screenings
Lung Cancer Screening Program
If you have smoked for many years, you may want to think about screening (testing) for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). Before deciding, you should think about the possible benefits and harms of lung cancer screening. This decision aid will help prepare you to talk with your health care professional about whether lung cancer screening is right for you.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer happens when abnormal cells form in the lungs and grow out of control. These cells can form a tumor and can spread to other parts of the body. Lung cancer is often diagnosed once it has spread outside the lungs. About 9 out of every 10 people with lung cancer die from the disease because it is found after it has spread.
Possible signs and symptoms of lung cancer
Many patients with lung cancer do not have any symptoms when the cancer first starts. It is best to find lung cancer early before symptoms start, when the cancer is more easily treated. This is why screening is important. If you have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer, be sure to tell your doctor.
- A new cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Chest pain that is often worse when you breathe deeply, cough, or laugh
- A hoarse voice
- Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit or phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that do not go away or keep coming back
Who should be screened for lung cancer?
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is made up of experts in preventive medicine. Without pay, they review the current research to make recommendations about clinical preventive services such as screening, counseling, and preventive medications.
The USPSTF recommends lung cancer screening for individuals who:
- Are 55 to 80 years old
- Do not have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer (diagnostic testing may be recommended for people who do have signs or symptoms of lung cancer)
- Have not had lung cancer before
- Currently smoke or quit less than 15 years ago
- Are or were heavy smokers (30 pack-years history such as those who smoked 1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years)
The USPSTF does not recommend lung cancer screening for individuals who:
- Have a condition that greatly limits how long they may live
- Are not willing to have surgery for lung cancer
Does Insurance Cover Lung Cancer Screenings?
Yes, private insurance plans cover lung cancer screening for people age 55 through 80 with no out-of-pocket costs. Medicare covers lung cancer screening with no out-of-pocket costs for people up to age 77 years who meet other criteria.
You and your insurance company will be responsible for the costs of additional tests and treatment after the initial screening test.