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A lung cancer screening scan showing early lung cancer.

Why Screen for Lung Cancer

Screening is the process of looking for a disease in people who don’t have symptoms of that disease. Common screening tests include mammography for breast cancer, Pap smear for cervical cancer, and PSA test and/or digital rectal exam for prostate cancer.

The goal of screening for lung cancer is to identify cancer at an early stage, when it is more likely to be curable. Published in 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial showed that using low-dose chest CT scans to screen people who are at high risk for lung cancer decreases the death rate from lung cancer by 20 percent. More recent trials conducted in Europe have demonstrated similar, and in some cases even more favorable, results.

As a result of this research, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and other expert groups now recommend annual lung cancer screening for individuals considered to be high risk. Lung cancer screening is a covered service for patients (55 up to age 77) on Medicare, and is also covered under most private insurance plans (55 to age 80).

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Who Qualifies for Lung Cancer Screening?

You should consider lung cancer screening if you meet all of the criteria, as determined by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

How to Pursue Lung Cancer Screening

You can use a lung cancer screening decision aid to help you determine if lung cancer screening is right for you.

During and After Your Screening

Learn what to expect during and after your lung cancer screening.

Why Choose Northwestern Medicine for Lung Cancer Screening

  • Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine was the only site in the Chicagoland area to participate in the National Lung Screening Trial. This trial was the first, and remains the largest, randomized study ever to demonstrate that screening for lung cancer reduces lung cancer deaths. The Feinberg School of Medicine trial site was headed by Eric Hart, MD, associate professor of radiology in the Thoracic Imaging Division.
  • Many Northwestern Medicine facilities are American College of Radiology (ACR) Designated Lung Cancer Screening Centers. To earn this designation, sites must demonstrate that they provide high-quality, low-dose CT screening for early detection of lung cancer.
  • Many Northwestern Medicine facilities have also been awarded the Screening Center of Excellence designation by the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer. This designation recognizes medical facilities that provide patient-centered care and responsible, high-quality, low-dose CT screening for early detection of lung cancer. These centers also must comply with comprehensive standards based on best practices.

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