Giving up cigarettes significantly reduces your risk for lung cancer. If you’ve recently kicked your tobacco habit, you can continue to protect your health with lung cancer screenings.
Who Needs to Be Screened?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that anyone at high risk for lung cancer have an annual lung cancer screening. You might fall into that group, according to the USPSTF, if you meet all of the following criteria:
- You are 55–80 years old.
- You are a current or former heavy smoker; the USPSTF defines heavy smoking as “30 pack years,” which means smoking one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.
- You have quit smoking within the past 15 years.
If you’re unsure if you qualify, talk to your doctor about your risk and whether you might benefit from a lung cancer screening — people at high risk for lung cancer can reduce their chances of dying from the disease by receiving yearly low-dose CT scans, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
What Is Low-Dose CT?
Low-dose CT is a special X-ray technology used to inspect the lungs for signs of cancer, while emitting as much as 90 percent less harmful radiation than a conventional CT scan, according to the Radiological Society of North America. These screenings are more effective at saving lives than ordinary chest X-rays, the ACS notes.
What Can Low-Dose CT Detect?
Low-dose CT scans can reveal lung abnormalities that are common in current and former heavy smokers, according to the National Cancer Institute. The ACS has found that most nodules are not cancerous. Regardless, the society adds that it is important that abnormalities be evaluated and, if necessary, receive further testing or treatment.