Skip to content

A low-dose CT scan for lung cancer is a specialized medical imaging procedure designed to detect early signs of lung cancer, primarily in individuals at high risk for the disease. What sets LDCT apart is its use of a reduced level of radiation compared to standard CT scans, making it a safer option for repeated screenings.

Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of death among those diagnosed with cancer and the second most common cancer for both men and women. Generally, lung cancer is more advanced and more difficult to treat when symptoms are present. Individuals who are at a higher risk of contracting the disease benefit from screening tests.

CHI Lakewood Health offers lung cancer screenings for individuals meeting these criteria:

  • Must be between the ages of 50 – 80
  • Must be a current heavy smoker (1 pack a day for 20 years) OR former heavy smoker who quit less than 15 years ago
  • Must have commercial insurance, Medicare or a Medicaid Expansion plan
  • No chest CT scan in the last 12 months
  • No change in cough, shortness of breath or blood stained mucus

What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Smokers are at the highest risk, with the risk increasing the longer a person smokes and the number of cigarettes smoked.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of lung cancer, especially for non-smokers who live or work with smokers.
  • Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can seep into homes and buildings. Prolonged exposure to high levels of radon is a significant risk factor for lung cancer.
  • Certain occupations, such as asbestos mining, construction, and industrial work, involve exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, arsenic, and diesel exhaust, which can raise the risk of lung cancer.
  • A family history of lung cancer may increase an individual’s susceptibility to the disease, suggesting a genetic predisposition.
  • Individuals with a history of lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Benefits of screening for lung cancer

  • Low-dose CT scans can detect lung cancer at an early stage when it’s more treatable, increasing the chances of successful treatment.
  • Compared to traditional CT scans, low-dose CT scans expose patients to lower levels of radiation, reducing potential health risks.
  • Low-dose CT scans are used as a screening tool for individuals at high risk of lung cancer, helping health care professionals follow specific screening guidelines.
  • Early detection through low-dose CT scans can lead to better survival rates and improved quality of life for lung cancer patients.
  • The procedure is non-invasive and relatively quick, causing minimal discomfort to patients.

Preparing for a low-dose CT scan for lung cancer

Follow medical instructions

Follow any specific instructions provided by your CHI Lakewood Health radiology technician. These instructions may include dietary restrictions, like fasting for a specific period before your scan, or medication adjustments around the time of the procedure.

Wear comfortable clothing

You will need to change into a hospital gown for the scan, so it’s a good idea to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to the imaging center. Avoid clothing with metal zippers, buttons, or snaps, as these can interfere with the scan. Remove any jewelry, watches, or accessories, as well as metal objects like eyeglasses.

Breathing instructions

During the CT scan, you will be asked to hold your breath for short periods of time. It’s essential to follow the technologist’s instructions carefully to ensure clear images. Practice different relaxation techniques before your procedure. A calm and relaxed state can make the experience more comfortable.

Ask questions

If you have any questions or concerns about the procedure or the preparation process, don’t hesitate to ask your CHI Lakewood Health radiology technician. They can provide guidance and address any uncertainties.

What is the screening process for lung cancer like?

The screening process for lung cancer typically involves the following steps:

  • Eligibility assessment: Before undergoing a lung cancer screening, individuals are assessed for eligibility. Screening is usually recommended for those at high risk, such as long-term smokers or individuals with a family history of lung cancer.
  • Discussion with your health care physician: Patients should have a discussion with their health care physician about the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening. This discussion helps individuals make an informed decision about whether to proceed with screening.
  • Low-dose CT scan: The primary screening tool for lung cancer is a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. This imaging test uses X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the lungs. It is a quick and painless procedure.
  • Results: After the scan, a radiologist reviews the images to check for any abnormalities or signs of lung cancer. The results are typically provided to the patient and their health care physician. From there, you and your care team will determine the best treatment plan for your individual needs.

Frequently asked questions

Screening frequency depends on your risk factors and age. Typically, it’s recommended annually for eligible individuals.
If an abnormality is detected, further diagnostic tests, such as a biopsy or additional imaging, may be recommended to determine whether it is cancerous or benign.