Lung Cancer Screening Program
A – What is screening?
“Screening” refers to the process of performing tests for cancer before a person has any symptoms or signs of such disease. This can help find cancer at an early stage. When cancer is found early, it may be curable and easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may already have spread.
If a screening test result is abnormal, you may need to have more tests done to find out if you have cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
Different factors increase the risk of lung cancer.
Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor.
Tobacco smoking in any form is the most important risk factor for lung cancer. Tobacco smoking causes 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in men and 8 out of 10 cases of lung cancer in women. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.
B – Benefits of Lung Cancer Screening
- The National Lung Screening Trial in USA showed that screening with Low Dose CT (LDCT) scans decreases the risk of dying from lung cancer in heavy smokers.
- Current smokers whose LDCT scan result shows cancer are more likely to quit smoking.
C – Risks of Lung Cancer Screening
Decisions about screening tests can be difficult. Not all screening tests are helpful and some may be associated with risks to your health or well-being.
The risks of lung cancer screening tests include the following:
- Finding lung cancer may not improve health or help you live longer.
Screening may not improve your health or help you live longer if you have lung cancer that has already spread to other places in your body.
- False-negative test results can occur.
Screening test results may appear to be normal even though lung cancer is present. A person who receives a false-negative test result (one that shows there is no cancer when actually there is) may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.
- False-positive test results can occur.
Screening test results may appear to be abnormal even though no cancer is present. A false-positive test result (one that shows there is cancer when there really isn’t) can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests (such as biopsy), to prove or disprove the findings.
- CT scans expose the person to radiation, which is itself a risk factor for cancer.
This summary has been adapted from PDQ® NCI.
Full details are available at: www.cancer.gov/types/lung/patient/lung-screening-pdq.