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.
"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).