Lung Cancer Screening
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (CT) in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. (A pack-year is the equivalent of smoking 1 pack of cigarettes per day for a year. Someone who smokes 2 packs per day would accumulate 30-pack years within a 15-year period, etc.)
This recommendation is based on a large study involving more than 50,000 people who had a current or former history of heavy smoking. Former smokers in this study had quit smoking within the past 15 years. The type of CT scans used in this study employed significantly less radiation exposure than chest CT scans in the past.
Anyone who is having symptoms that might suggest the presence of lung cancer (such as persistent cough, unexplained weight loss, unexplained shortness of breath, etc.) should undergo a medical evaluation that might include chest CT. However, in this situation, the CT scan is considered a diagnostic test rather than a screening test. “Screening” refers to testing that is done to detect disease at an early stage, before the onset of symptoms.