Lung Cancer Screening FAQs

Lung Cancer Screening Questions & Answers

If you have a history of heavy tobacco use, you can greatly increase your odds of surviving lung cancer by scheduling annual lung cancer screenings. Learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about lung cancer screenings.

A noninvasive low-dose CT scan will usually take less than a minute to complete. Often, patients will not even have to change out of their clothes. You may be asked to complete a questionnaire that will assist your Mercy doctor with your scan and future treatment options, should you need any. 

If you’re found to be at high risk (have a 30 pack-year smoking history and are over the age of 55), it’s recommended that you get screened once a year up until the age of 74, as long as you stay healthy.

High-risk patients are more likely to develop cancer than low-risk patients. The more often you’re tested, the higher the likelihood of catching the disease earlier and starting treatment when it will be most effective. 

Health insurance companies generally cover lung cancer screenings for those who meet the guidelines specified by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

  • Contact your health insurance provider to be sure a lung cancer screening is covered under your current plan.
  • For those on Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services covers lung cancer screening for people 55 to 77 with a 30 pack-year history of smoking who are either current smokers or who’ve quit smoking in the last 15 years.

A lung cancer screening will generally cost you anywhere between $100 and $250.

However, for patients believed to be at high risk for lung cancer, the screening is usually free. You should make an appointment with your Mercy doctor to discuss whether you may be an at-risk candidate for a free screening. 

During your low-dose CT scan, you’ll lie on a table while an X-ray machine uses a small dose of radiation to capture a detailed image of your lungs. You’ll be asked to lie very still while the table passes through the machine. You might also be asked to hold your breath in order for the machine to get a clear picture. Expect the machine to make loud clicking noises as well.