There is definitive evidence that screening people who have a long history of smoking with low-dose spiral CT (LDCT) significantly reduces lung cancer deaths, but—despite being a non-invasive and quick procedure—current screening rates are low. In 2023, the American Cancer Society updated their screening guidelines to recommend routine lung cancer screening for those at high-risk based on age and smoking history, regardless of whether they still smoke or when they quit.
While many factors can contribute to lung cancer risk, about 80 to 90% of lung cancer deaths are related to cigarette smoking.
If you smoke cigarettes heavily or used to smoke heavily, get screened for lung cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends screening for people who currently smoke or used to smoke (regardless of when they quit) who are ages 50-80 and have 20 pack-year histories* of smoking. Check with your insurance provider to find out if you’ll be covered for routine lung cancer screening.**
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for people who smoke or used to smokewho are ages 50–80, who have 20 pack-year histories* of smoking and who either still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
*A ‘pack year history’ is an estimate of how much a person has smoked over time. The number of packs of cigarettes smoked every day is multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked that amount. Example: a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years has a history of 1 x 20 = 20 pack years. Learn more about how pack years factor into your health.
**Recommendations on routine lung cancer screening differ slightly between the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Per the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to cover services given an “A” or “B” grade by USPSTF, but some may choose to cover services for additional groups. Check with your insurance provider to find out if you’ll be covered for routine lung cancer screening.
You are at risk for lung cancer if you:
While many factors can contribute to lung cancer risk, about 80-90% of lung cancer deaths are related to cigarette smoking.
For help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
In the early stages, there may be no symptoms. As lung cancer progresses, these symptoms may occur:
Talk with your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms, even if you have none of the risk factors listed.
Lung cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer (small cell or non-small cell), the size of the tumor, the presence or absence of certain proteins or genetic mutations, and whether or not it has spread.
• In early stages of lung cancer, when the disease has not spread outside the lungs, surgery is the usual treatment. Sometimes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy is used in combination with surgery. These treatments, along with radiation, can also be used in early stages of lung cancer when surgery is not possible.
• For later stages of the disease, radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used in combination with surgery. Patients with certain mutations may be eligible for immunotherapy.
• New, less-invasive surgery may help patients recover more quickly with the same results as older, more invasive surgery.