Who should get a CT scan to screen for lung cancer?

Dr. Brian D. Gelbman, MD
Pulmonary Disease Specialist

CT scans can pick up lung cancer at its earliest stage, when it's most treatable; patients 55-75 of age with 30+ pack years of smoking are ideal candidates. Watch pulmonologist Brian Gelbman, MD, discuss who should get this screening for lung cancer.

Patients should get a CT scan to screen for lung cancer if they have smoked one pack per day for greater than 30 years, are over the age of 55 and are still smoking or have smoked within the past 15 years.

People age 55 and up who smoke a pack a day or more should talk with their doctor about a lung cancer screening. Watch as nuclear medicine supervisor Wes Fox, of Trident Medical Center explains the risk factors for lung cancer.

The following factors are a reason to get a computerized tomography (CT) scan for lung cancer. If all of these apply to you, ask your doctor if a CT scan to screen for lung cancer is right for you:

  • age 55-77 years old
  • signs or symptoms of lung cancer, including a cough that does not go away, chest pain with deep breathing, hoarseness, weight loss, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, fatigue, wheezing and repeated lung infections (if these are present, inform your primary doctor as soon as possible)
  • current smoker or quit smoking within the last 15 years
  • smoking history of at least 30 pack years (one pack year = smoking one pack per day for one year)

If you are a smoker and within the normal age range recommended for lung cancer screenings, you should get a CT scan. A CT scan will give us anatomic information. It will tell us the size of the tumor and where is it located in the lung. It will also tell us how close it is to central structures and whether lymph nodes are enlarged.

A person should get a CT, or computed tomography, scan to screen for lung cancer if he or she is 55 years old or older and has a 30-pack-year history of smoking. Also the person could have quit within the last 15 years or may be a current smoker. People who have this screening exam should be surgical candidates, which means that if they would not be able to have surgical treatment, then there is no need to screen for lung cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.