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. . .