Screening means testing for a disease when there are no symptoms or history of that disease. Doctors recommend a screening test to find a disease early, when treatment may work better.
The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). In this test, an X-ray machine scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs.
Who should be screened?
- • Have a history of heavy smoking, or
- • Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, or
- • Are between 55 and 80 years old.
Heavy smokers who are at least 55 should have an annual CT scan to check for lung cancer, a government panel says. The recommendation, which could apply to about nine million Americans, would mean Medicare and many health insurance companies must start providing the test for free to patients.
The screening test, which costs $250-$300, may prevent as many as 20 percent of future deaths from lung cancer, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) says in its recommendations, explained in a separate report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Other experts note that in real-world practice, the actual numbers may be much lower.