The goal of lung cancer screening is to detect lung cancer at a very early stage — when it's more likely to be cured. Studies show lung cancer screening reduces the risk of dying of lung cancer.
Lung cancer screening is usually reserved for people with the greatest risk of lung cancer, including:
- Older adults who are current or former smokers. Lung cancer screening is generally offered to smokers and former smokers older than 55.
People who have smoked heavily for many years. You may consider lung cancer screening if you have a history of smoking for 30 pack years or longer. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes smoked a day and the number of years that you smoked.
To reach 30 pack years of smoking, you'd need to smoke a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. Your smoking habits may have changed over the years, so discuss your particular situation with your doctor to calculate your number of pack years.
- People who once smoked heavily but quit. If you were a heavy smoker for a long time and you quit smoking in the last 15 years, you may consider lung cancer screening.
- People in generally good health. If you have serious health problems, such as advanced heart disease, you may be less likely to benefit from lung cancer screening. And you may be more likely to experience complications from follow-up tests. For this reason, lung cancer screening is offered to people who are in generally good health.
Discuss your risk of lung cancer with your doctor. Together you may consider other risk factors in your decision about lung cancer screening, such as a family history of lung cancer, exposure to high levels of radon gas in your home or working with asbestos.