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What Should I Expect?

It’s important to know that there are benefits to any screening, including lung cancer. Benefits of lung cancer screening include:

  • Survival: The most obvious benefit to lung cancer screening is that lung cancer that is caught early is more likely to be treatable and cured.
  • Research advances: Screening can also help speed up research that will lead to improved ways of detecting lung cancer in the future.

The Screening Test

Lung cancer screening is done using an imaging machine to produce a low-dose spiral (or helical) CT (Computed Tomography) scan of the chest. This scan uses a series of x-rays to show the shape, size and location of anything abnormal in the chest that might signal the need for follow up. CT scans are very sensitive and can show both cancerous and non-cancerous areas. 

To get a CT scan, you will lie very still on a table, which is slowly moved through the CT scanner. An x-ray machine rotates around you and takes pictures from many angles. A computer then combines the pictures into a very detailed image. The procedure takes less than 30 seconds. There are no medications or injections needed and there is no need to stop eating or drinking before the exam. As long as your clothing does not contain metal, you may not even have to change. It is important, however, that you are able to hold your breath for several seconds. That way, your lungs will not move during the scan and the images will be clear.

The Results

The results from your lung cancer scan will be sent to the doctor who referred you for screening. Your doctor will review the results of the scan and will discuss if any follow up is needed. Because a spiral CT scan is so detailed, it is possible that something will show up on the exam that is not cancer. Your doctor will discuss the best way to follow up on any test result.

In the event that you were screened without a referral from a doctor, the screening center will provide you with your results and any appropriate follow up information.