Health Tips & Articles

Are You A Candidate For Lung Cancer Screening?

by John A. Rankin, MD


Lung cancer is the world’s leading cause of cancer death. Without screening, the typical person newly diagnosed with lung cancer has only a 1-in-5 chance of living beyond another five years. This is largely because most lung cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when cure is unlikely.

Now, however, many adults are eligible for lung cancer screening using low-dose CT (LDCT), a quick, easy and painless procedure that looks for cancers when they are very small and more readily curable.  LDCT exposes you to 1/5th of the dose of radiation used for your typical CT scan. The benefit of such screening has been demonstrated by multiple, recent, extensive studies.

Most medical insurance companies, including Medicare and MassHealth, now pay for this procedure for qualifying individuals. To qualify, you must typically meet ALL of the following criteria:

  1. 1.     You are currently 55 - 80 years old


  1. 2.     You are a current smoker or you stopped smoking less than 15 years ago.


  1. 1.     You have smoked for more than 30 pack years.

(You can calculate your pack years of smoking by taking the AVERAGE numbers of packs per day that you have smoked over your life time and multiplying this by the total number of years you have smoked. For example, if you smoked one pack per day for 30 years, you have a 30 pack year smoking history.)

If you have previously had lung cancer or have emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, industrial chemical exposures, or a family history of lung cancer, you may be eligible to start LDCT at a age 50 with as few as 20 pack years of smoking, regardless of if or when you quit.

Once referred for LDCT by Riverbend, you will be contacted by Mercy Medical Center. They will interview you, usually over the phone, and then schedule you for your LDCT. If your LDCT result is abnormal, you will either have a repeat LDCT in several months or will be referred to a specialist for further evaluation. If your LDCT is unremarkable, you will be advised to have another LDCT in a year.

If you feel you may qualify for this potentially life-saving screening, please discuss this with your primary care team or your pulmonologist.



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