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 fairly advanced by the time symptoms show up.

Early detection through low-dose computed tomography (CT) can find lung cancer at a stage when it is still curable through treatment. The lung cancer screening program at ColumbiaDoctors and NewYork-Presbyterian includes radiologists, pulmonoligists, thoracic surgeons, oncologists, and a nurse coordinator who provide multidisciplinary care for people who are considered high risk for lung cancer.

What is lung cancer screening?

“Screening” refers to performing exams on patients who don't have any symptoms, to allow detection of cancer at an early stage. Many patients do not have symptoms when lung cancer first starts.

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. Preventitive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening for adults who are:

  • Between the ages of 50 and 80 years.
  • Have a 20 pack-year smoking history.
  • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Do not have any 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

What to Expect

  • Shared Decision Making Consultation: You will consult with our nurse coordinator to discuss the risks and benefits of participation. If you decide to participate, our nurse coordinator will schedule the exam.
  • Low-dose CT Scan: You will have a low-dose CT scan. The scan itself takes five minutes.
  • Results: A radiologist will review the results with you immediately after your exam. Any followup recommendations will be coordinated by our nurse coordinator.
  • Followup: If you require additional testing or treatment, our nurse coordinator will serve as a point person for streamlined communication and comprehensive care with our multidisciplinary team.
  • Smoking Cessation: Our team will provide you with support and smoking cessation counseling.

What to Expect From the Exam

A low dose CT is painless and quick. You will lie on your back on a table which can slide in and out of the CT scanner. Once you are comfortable, the technologist will leave the room to perform the scan, 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 actual scan takes less than five minutes.

After the Exam

After the exam you can immediately resume your normal activities.