Q&A: Lung cancer screening
Lung cancer screening isn’t for everyone. Only those at increased risk for lung cancer should undergo screening.
Lung cancer screening is helping MD Anderson catch more cases of lung cancer early. That’s when it’s easiest to treat. If lung cancer is caught early, patients are less likely to die of lung cancer.
But lung cancer screening isn’t for everyone. Only those at increased risk for lung cancer should undergo screening.
We spoke to Myrna Godoy, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Diagnostic Radiology, and Jeremy Erasmus, M.D., professor of Diagnostic Radiology, to learn more about lung cancer screening. Here’s what they had to say:
Who should have lung cancer screening?
Those at high risk for lung cancer should get screened. People who are eligible for lung cancer screening are:
- Current smokers or former smokers who quit in the past 15 years.
- People who have a 30 pack-year history of smoking. For example, one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.
What are the risks associated with lung cancer screening?
There is a concern that screening could lead to unnecessary biopsies and worry. Another potential harm associated with lung cancer screening is radiation exposure. To address this, the American College of Radiology and the Society of Thoracic Radiology have published standards.
What can you expect during a lung cancer screening?
Lung cancer screening typically involves a spiral CT-scan. During the scan, an X-ray machine scans your body in a spiral path. The scan produces a series of detailed images of inside the body. These scans are read on a computer. The actual scan is performed in under a minute.
How is our Moon Shots Program influencing lung cancer screening?
Through our Lung Cancer Moon Shot, we’re conducting a clinical trial to improve lung cancer screening. We hope that through this trial we will catch more cases of lung cancer in its early stages, when it’s easiest to treat. We’re using a blood test that relies on biomarkers to detect cancer. We hope that by testing patients with the CT scan and this blood test, we’ll catch more cancers earlier.
When or how often should you undergo screening?
If you’re eligible and in between the ages of 55 to 74, you should have lung cancer screening each year. If you’re older than 74, your doctor can help you decide if you need to continue with screening.
What are the next steps after lung cancer screening?
Once you receive your results, you will meet with your doctor to determine if you need to start treatment, further imaging evaluation or continue with annual screening. We recommend that anyone who smokes and undergoes lung cancer screening meet with a counselor to learn more about smoking cessation programs. MD Anderson conducts numerous research studies to help smokers quit.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.