Early Detection

View the Lung Cancer Screening Fact Sheet here

Screening Saves Lives
Cancer treatment is most effective when the disease is detected early, often times before symptoms develop. Currently, most cases of lung cancer are detected at late stages when treatment options are limited. CT screening is one method used to detect lung cancer early in patients who do not have any visible symptoms. Detecting lung cancer at its earliest stages can improve the 5 year survival rate from just 3.5% to over 50%.

Who Should be Screened?
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends CT screening for individuals:

  • Age 55-74
  • Smoking history of at least 30 pack years*
  • Have quit smoking less than 15 years ago

  • Age 50 or greater
  • Smoking history of at least 20 pack years*
  • One additional risk factor, other than smoking

What is CT Screening?
CT (Computed Tomography) screening uses specialized X-ray equipment to produce cross sectional pictures; a helical or spiral CT also rotates around the body, enabling doctors to produce a three dimensional image. Importantly, CT screening for early detection of lung cancer uses low-dose CT, with lower levels of radiation than a diagnostic CT.

What is the Evidence Supporting CT Screening for Lung Cancer Early Detection?
In June 2011, the National Cancer Institute published findings from the nearly 10-year National Lung Screening Trial (NLST). Results showed that low-dose CT screening reduced mortality from lung cancer by 20%, meaning 20% fewer deaths from lung cancer. The study followed over 50,000 patients, aged 55-74 with a heavy smoking history, who received annual low-dose helical CT or chest x-ray. CT screening reduced deaths from lung cancer, showing the power of this test to save lives. Learn more about the NLST here.

Where Can I Get Screened?
Speak with your doctor about whether CT screening is right for you. You can also learn about screening options at these sites:

Read more about the National Lung Screening Trial in a Q&A with Dr. Steven Dubinett (UCLA).
*Thirty pack years corresponds to one pack per day for thirty years or two packs per day for fifteen years.

Sources: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2008, NCI. Bethesda, MD http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2008 N Engl J Med 2011; 365:395-409.