While you may be feeling healthy, a lung cancer screening checks your lungs and is a regular preventative health check, like a mammogram or a colonoscopy. Here, we’ll outline what you can do to take charge of your lung health.
What Is a Lung Cancer Screening?
Lung cancer screening is a process that’s used to detect the presence of cancer in otherwise healthy people with a high risk of lung cancer. Doctors use a low-dose computerized tomography (LDCT) scan of your lungs to look for lung cancer. If it’s detected at an early stage, lung cancer is more likely to be cured with treatment.
Who Should Get a Yearly Lung Cancer Screening?
Lung cancer screening is usually reserved for people with the greatest risk of lung cancer, including:
- Older adults who are current or former smokers. Lung cancer screening is generally offered to if you have no symptoms or personal history of lung cancer and are between 55-80 years old or were a former smoker who quit in the previous 15 years.
- People who’ve smoked heavily for many years. If you have a history of smoking for 30 pack years or longer, you may want to consider getting a lung cancer screening. Pack years are calculated by multiplying the packs of cigarettes smoked a day and the number of years that you smoked. For example, a person with 30 pack years of smoking may have smoked a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. *Heavy smoking is defined as at least “30 pack years,” calculated by multiplying the average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years you have smoked. 1 pack a day for 30 years = 30 pack years. 2 packs a day for 15 years = 30 pack years.
- People who once smoked heavily but quit. If you were a heavy smoker for a long time, you may want to consider lung cancer screening.
- People in generally good health. If you have serious health problems, you may be less likely to benefit from lung cancer screening and more likely to experience problems from follow up tests. That’s why lung cancer screening is offered to people who are in generally good health.
- People with a history of lung cancer. If you were treated for lung cancer more than five years ago, you may want to consider getting a lung cancer screening.
- People with other risk factors for lung cancer. If you have a family history of lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or have been exposed to asbestos at work, you should consider being screened for lung cancer.
What Happens Before, During, and After Your Lung Cancer Screening?
- Before your lung screening: You’ll meet with your Baptist Healthcare provider to discuss the benefits and risks associated with lung cancer screening. Known as a shared decision-making visit, you and your healthcare provider will make the decision about screening together. It’s important to note that just because your provider’s recommending a screening it doesn’t mean that they think you have lung cancer. If you decide on screening, your healthcare provider will create a written order and refer you to a screening location.
- During your screening: Limited preparation may be needed, which will be detailed by your provider. You won’t need to change your clothes as long as they don’t contain any metal. Don’t worry – there aren’t any needles or medicines needed for screening. The LDCT procedure only takes a few minutes where you’ll lie on your back while pictures of your lungs are taken.
- After your screening: A specialist will read your scan, report the results, then someone from the screening location or your healthcare team will discuss the results with you.
Lung Cancer Assessment
Lung cancer is a major health issue in the United States.
What if I Have Anxiety About a Scanning?
Also known as “scanxiety,” it’s normal to have anxiety about your yearly lung cancer screening. It’s important to know that most people who are scanned don’t have lung cancer. About 86% of people screened will have negative results. If you do have a positive result, it could be a false alarm. Roughly 13% of people will get results that are false. Your doctor may order more tests to get more information.
What Should I Ask My Doctor About a Lung Cancer Screening?
When you meet with your Baptist Health provider make sure to ask the following questions:
- Is lung cancer screening recommended for me?
- How do I know if my insurance covers LDCT screening?
- What are the benefits and risks of LDCT screening?
- How will I get the results of my LDCT scan?
- What tools are available to help me quit smoking?
Want to Learn More About Lung Cancer Screening?
To find out whether a lung screening is right for you, schedule an appointment with a Baptist Health Provider today.