Should you get a low-dose CT scan of the lung to look for lung cancer?

jaydocMy mom recently asked me if I’d suggest that she get a low-dost CT lung scan.  I should say that I am not the physician for my family–although I often do field questions.

Great question!  Low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening for those at high risk for lung cancer has received a grade B (meaning it should be considered helpful) from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.   But, not everyone would benefit from a low-dose CT scan. 

Those at “high risk” for lung cancer should be considered for CT screening.

  • aged 55-80,
  • 30-pack year history of smoking (like smoking one pack per day for 30 years)  or more,
  • those who have stopped smoking within the past 15 years,

Lesser known risk factors are

  • some occupational exposures (like radon),
  • family history of lung cancer,
  • incidence of pulmonary fibrosis,
  • or emphysema. 

These guidelines come out of studies published between 2000 and 2013.  The rules of statistics show that this test will benefit those most who are at high-risk.  To screen patients at low risk of lung cancer is more likely to turn up “false positive” results–meaning the test shows there is a problem when there is not.  False positive results often  lead to extra tests (which may involve needles and biopsies) AND lots of worry.

 The mandate from the USPSTF allows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to mandate that this service be provided without charging a copay or deductible. 

If you are at high risk, ask your physician if this test is right for you. . .

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About drlesliegreenberg

I have been practicing as a family physician for over 20 years--as both an educator of physicians and clinician. From infancy to the elderly, I perform obstetrics and general medicine. I love my career and am passionate about my field of knowledge and my patients. Follow me on Facebook at Leslie Md Greenberg Medical Disclaimer The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.
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