Low-Dose CT Scan for Lung Cancer


Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It usually affects current and former smokers. The longer you’ve smoked, the higher your risk of developing lung cancer. But you can increase your odds of surviving lung cancer by having annual screening exams. A test called a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan can detect lung cancer in its earliest stage, while it’s still treatable.

What are LDCT Scans?

Chances are, you’ve heard of a test called a CT scan. During a CT scan, you lie on a table that slides in and out of a large X-ray machine. Special imaging equipment takes many pictures of an area inside your body. Together these images create a 3-D view of the scanned body part.

LDCT scans create the same detailed pictures as standard CT scans. But, they use lower amounts of radiation and do not involve needles or contrast dye. The test is quick and painless.

Research has shown LDCT scans of the chest are the best way to find tiny tumors or other growths in the lungs. Screening for lung cancer with LDCT instead of traditional chest X-rays can reduce the risk of death by up to 20 percent. When lung cancer is found early, it can be treated before it has a chance to grow or spread.

Who Qualifies for Lung Cancer Screening?

Annual screening exams are reserved for people considered high-risk for lung cancer. You may qualify if you meet all the following criteria:

  • You’re 55-77* years old.
  • You're a current smoker, or you've quit smoking within the last 15 years.
  • You've smoked for at least 30 "pack years." For example, you've smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.
  • You don’t have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms usually don’t show up until the disease has already reached an advanced stage.
  • Your health is generally good. You must be healthy enough to undergo follow-up tests and treatment.

If you're interested in getting screened, talk to your primary care physician. Your doctor will help confirm you meet the screening criteria. And he or she can order your screening and/or refer you to the closest facility that performs LDCT scans.

Detecting & Treating Lung Cancer

If you are or have been a smoker, you may worry about the damage you’ve done to your lungs. But an LDCT scan is a fast, easy way to protect your health and potentially save your life.

No matter what your test results show, you’ll find the care and support you need at Mercy. If you’re cancer-free but still smoking, we’ll give you the tools you need to quit for good. And if you have lung cancer, you can take comfort knowing we offer the experience and advanced treatments you need to face it – and overcome it.

*Age recommendations for lung cancer screening vary. If you are over 50 and have a heavy smoking history, talk to your doctor to see if he or she recommends you begin yearly screenings.

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