Should you as an ex-smoker have a CT scan to rule out lung cancer? This is a great question.
A few years ago the National Lung Screening Trial found a reduction in disease-specific and all-cause mortality with lung cancer screening. THEN the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care AND the U.S Preventive Services Task Force voted in favor of a low-dose lung CT scan in those aged 55-80 who have a 30-pack/year smoking history (like one pack a day for 30 years) and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. So, we physicians, have been ordering low-dose lung CT scans on appropriate patients.
What were the results? In a small group of Veterans Health Administration patients, it was found that 97.5% of patients who were told they had an abnormal lung CT DID NOT have lung cancer.
Where does this leave us? The patient and physician should have a discussion about the risks of a false-positive result (a concerning lung CT with subsequent negative work up) and other harms such as radiation exposure, over-
diagnosis and incidental non-lung-cancer findings.
Talk to your doctor. Make a plan.