Lung Cancer Screening

This information is useful for adults
lung cancer screening
Why Yale Medicine?
  • We have a comprehensive program for screening high-risk groups for lung cancer.
  • Yale Medicine contributes to the a wide-ranging, national lung cancer screening program.
  • We offer low-dose CT scans and external beam and intracavitary therapy.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. While cancer treatments have generally improved in recent years, many cancers go undetected until they’re late-stage and harder to cure. 

“Lung cancer screening is about catching a potentially curable cancer in a high-risk patient before it has become symptomatic,” says Isabel Oliva, MD, chief of Yale Medicine's Thoracic Imaging in the Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging. She's also an associate professor of radiology at Yale School of Medicine.

"When we find a lesion in the lungs, we always ask ourselves: 'What is the likelihood this is malignant?'" Dr. Oliva. "Most of the routine chest CT examinations done for cancer screening do not show an abnormality that requires immediate treatment, and most patients are asked to return in a year for another routine screening exam. Sometimes we find a nodule that requires close attention, so we may ask patients to return in three to six months for a follow up CT exam. Less commonly we find lesions that are more worrisome, and these patients may be referred to a pulmonologist or oncologist for further investigation."

Yale Medicine doctors support lung cancer screening for patients in high-risk groups. These include adults with no symptoms who are between 55 and 74 years old with a significant smoking history, whether or not they still smoke. We recommend people at high risk go for regular annual screenings with low-dose computerized tomography (CT).

You'll meet with a doctor to discuss the risks of lung cancer, the risks and benefits of lung cancer screening and smoking cessation—if you are still smoking. Often, you'll undergo a computerized tomography (CT) scan on the same day.

Doctors use a low-dose radiation CT scan that delivers only about one-tenth the dose of a normal chest CT scan. 

“Our current goal is to decrease the dose continually until the CT scan is at a similar radiation dose as a routine chest X-ray,” says Dr. Oliva. The radiation dose is minimized because men and women in high-risk populations may have close to 25 scans over their lifetimes.

If a scan shows no sign of cancer, you'll return a year later for your next scan. 

Clinical Trials

New treatments for many conditions are tested in clinical trials, which ultimately bring lifesaving new drugs and devices to the patients who need them most. By participating in a clinical trial, you may get access to the most advanced treatments for your condition, and help determine their benefits for future patients.