Screening for Lung Cancer
MEDICAL ANIMATION TRANSCRIPT: Screening for lung cancer means looking for signs of cancer in your lungs before you have symptoms. Screening can help find cancer at an early stage. This can make treating it easier because the cancer might not have spread. Screening for lung cancer is recommended once a year if you: have a “twenty pack-year” history of smoking cigarettes, meaning you have smoked about a pack a day for twenty years, or two packs a day for ten years; smoke now or have quit smoking within the past fifteen years; and are between fifty and eighty years old. You may stop yearly screening for lung cancer if you: are over eighty-one years old; haven’t smoked in fifteen or more years; or have a health problem that makes you unable or unwilling to have surgery if lung cancer is found. The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography. This is also known as a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT. An LDCT machine emits a very low dose of x-rays that makes a series of detailed pictures of your lungs from different angles. A computer uses the pictures to make a 3D view of your lungs to look for signs of cancer. If abnormal tissue is found, you may need to have other tests or procedures. If you are at high risk for developing lung cancer, getting a low-dose CT scan could save your life. But getting the scan also has three potential risks. First, it may give a false-positive result. This means the test result says you have cancer when you don’t really have it. Second, it may lead to overdiagnosis. This means the test has found a type of cancer that isn’t likely to cause you any problems. Both a false-positive result and overdiagnosis can lead to other tests or procedures that you don’t need, and may have their own risks. And third, there is a very low risk that getting many CT scans may expose otherwise healthy people to enough x-rays that could cause cancer. This is why screening is only recommended for those at high risk for having lung cancer. If you have questions about this test or your test results, talk to your healthcare practitioner.