Lung Cancer Screening Program

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. One reason lung cancer is so deadly is that it is usually advanced by the time symptoms show up.

The lung cancer screening program at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian brings together physicians from multiple disciplines to provide care for smokers and ex-smokers who are at high risk for lung cancer and other complications.

What is lung cancer screening?

“Screening” refers to performing exams on patients who don't have any symptoms, to detect cancer at an early stage. Many patients do not have symptoms when lung cancer first starts. Screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT) could find lung cancer at a stage when it is still curable through treatment. 

A low dose CT uses a small amount of radiation to make detailed images of your lungs, which are analyzed by a radiologist. Low dose CT uses a much lower dose of radiation than a regular CT scan. It is not painful and takes only a few minutes.

Who should consider lung cancer screening?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening for adults who:

  • are between 50 and 80 years of age.
  • currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • have a 20 pack-year smoking history.
  • have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer.

Calculate Your Pack-Year Smoking History

  • 1 pack = 20 cigarettes
  • Number of years smoked X Average packs per day = Pack-years

A person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years has a 20 pack-year smoking history.

What to Expect

  • Shared Decision Making Consultation: Your first appointment will be with our nurse coordinator, who will discuss the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening. If you decide to participate, we will schedule your CT scan at the location most convenient to you.
  • Low-dose CT Scan: The scan itself is painless and takes five minutes.
  • Results: When you schedule your appointment, you will be given the option to review your results with a radiologist immediately after the exam. Results will be also be available in your Connect patient portal or sent to you by mail.
  • Followup: Our nurse coordinator will call if you require additional testing or followup and will serve as your point person for all communication and care from our multidisciplinary team.
  • Smoking Cessation: Our team will provide you with support and smoking cessation counseling.

What to Expect From the Exam

A technologist will ask you to lie on your back on a table which can slide in and out of the scanner. Once you are comfortable, the technologist will leave the room, but they will be able to see, hear, and speak with you at all times.

The technologist will ask you to hold very still and may ask you to hold your breath during the scan. The table will move quickly through the machine. You may hear some knocking or clicking noises. The scan takes less than five minutes.

After the Exam

You can immediately resume your normal activities after a low dose CT scan. If you have elected to review your results at your appointment, you will meet with the radiologist immediately after your exam.