Step 1: Check for risk of lung cancer
The very first step is to decide whether you should participate in a screening program. This depends on your age and smoking history. We are developing a program to allow you to check for your risk of lung cancer, which we will make available on this website in the future. We have determined through our research that a person’s risk of developing lung cancer is high enough to consider CT screening if they are over the age of 50 and have smoked 10 or more pack-years. Other factors may increase your risk, including exposure to things like asbestos, your gender, or your race. You should talk to your doctor about your history to find out if you are at a high risk of developing lung cancer.
Step 2: Baseline screening
Screening for the early detection of lung cancer starts with the first screening—or baseline screening. This means that the patient has never had a CT scan of the chest before, or at least not in the last 3 years. If no nodules are found, you should return the following year for the first annual repeat round of screening.
Annual repeat screenings are very important, because this is when the smallest, most curable lung cancers can be found.CT scans are so good that they show many small nodules in a lung. Most of these nodules are not lung cancer but less-serious abnormalities from some previous injury, a minor infection, or a non-cancerous tumor. It is usually not obvious from the first scan whether the patient has lung cancer. When a nodule is found, follow-up, low-dose, non-contrast chest CTs is typically used to see if the nodule grows. This is currently the best way to help decide if the nodule is actually a lung cancer.
Step 3: Biopsy
If the follow-up CT scan shows that the nodule is growing at the same rate that lung cancers grow, the radiologist will order other tests, like a biopsy, to get more information about the nodule. If the nodule does not grow like a lung cancer, then you would return to have your next annual repeat screening.
Step 4: Treatment
When the patient has lung cancer, it is treated. If the lung cancer is in an early stage and is promptly removed by surgery resection, there is a very high chance of cure; according to our research, it is as high as 92%.