The Low Dose CT Scan for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer, unfortunately, is the second most common cancer in men and women alike (excluding skin cancer). About 13% of all new cases of cancer in the United States are lung cancers, and in 2019, the American Cancer Society estimates that oncologists will diagnose over 228,000 new cases of the disease in Americans. The American Cancer Society also estimates that over 142,000 people will die from it. In fact, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both women and men: each year, more people die from lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancer combined.

There is also a slight gender disparity: a woman’s risk of developing lung cancer is approximately 1 in 17, while a man’s is about 1 in 15. There’s also an age disparity: the disease mainly develops in older folks. Most people who are diagnosed with lung cancer are at least 65; the disease’s average age of diagnosis is 70.

The American Lung Association says that using a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) to screen for lung cancer has been proven to lower one’s risk of dying from the disease. This is because it may catch lung cancer at an earlier stage, when it’s more treatable. The LDCT does come with its own potential risks and benefits, however:

  • POTENTIAL RISK: low radiation exposure. The LDCT exposes you to about the same amount of radiation that an average American receives in six months of “natural background radiation by living on planet Earth.” This amount of radiation is slightly higher than how much radiation you would be exposed to if you received a mammogram.
  • POTENTIAL BENEFIT: prevention of death. Screening for lung cancer finds 80% of lung cancers at an early stage–aka when it’s more curable. Without the help of screening, 70% of lung cancers aren’t diagnosed until a later stage, when the chances of a cure are, unfortunately, slim.

Your doctor will discuss the potential risks and benefits of the LDCT and how they fit in with your medical history and current situation. Additionally, your physician will talk to you about what could happen after your LDCT, should you get one. If your results are abnormal, you may require more testing to assess whether or not you have cancer. This could mean another scan such as a PET scan, or perhaps a biopsy.

If your Ezra medical provider deems you at a higher risk of developing lung cancer, they will add on a low-dose CT scan of your lungs at no additional cost. If you’d like to learn more about our screening options, you may do so here.