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Screening for Lung Cancer

The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Screening Guidelines

Though some vary slightly, most professional guidelines recommend that you and your doctor discuss the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening if you:

  • Are a current or former smoker who quit within the last 15 years
  • Are 55-74 years old
  • Have a history of heavy smoking (such as one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years)

Screening is done with a low-dose CT scan. A CT scan is a series of x-rays put together by a computer to create images of the lungs.

Screening tests results may come back as normal when lung cancer is actually present, but undetected. This is called a false-negative. Results can also show a lung lesion that is not cancerous such as a nodule. This is called a false-positive.


Can lung cancer be found early? American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated February 22, 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.

Lung cancer screening. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated June 16, 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.

Lung cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated August 11, 2017. Accessed August 30, 2017.

What do I need to know about lung cancer screening? American Lung Association website. Available at: Updated November 3, 2016. Accessed July 26, 2016.

10/1/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Manser R, Lethaby A, Irving LB,et al. Screening for lung cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(6):CD001991.

Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP