Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, causing more deaths than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. 

Lung Xray

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for Lung Cancer include:

  • Tobacco Smoke. Current smokers who have smoked at least one pack per day for 20 years or more, or are former smokers who have smoked at least one pack per day for 20 years or more but quit fewer than 15 years ago
  • Secondhand Smoke. If you don’t smoke, breathing in the smoke of others can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. 
  • Exposure to Certain Chemicals. If you have been exposed to the following chemicals, you may be at a greater risk:
      • Radon
      • Asbestos
      • Radioactive ores such as Uranium
      • Inhalants such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, silica, vinyl chloride, nickel compounds, chromium compounds, coal products, mustard gas, and chloromethyl ethers
      • Diesel exhaust
      • Arsenic in your drinking water
  • Previous Radiation Therapy to the Lungs. People who have had radiation therapy to the chest for other cancers are at higher risk for lung cancer, particularly if they smoke. 
  • Air Pollution. In cities, air pollution (especially near heavily trafficked roads) appears to raise the risk of lung cancer slightly.
  • Personal or Family History of Lung Cancer. If you have had lung cancer, you have a higher risk of developing another lung cancer. Immediate family members (siblings and children) of people who have had lung cancer may have a slightly higher risk of lung cancer themselves, especially if the relative was diagnosed at a younger age.

Lung Cancer Sreenings

Based on the National Lung Screening Trial­ findings, lung cancer screenings are recommended for people:

  • Between the ages of 50 and 80 years
  • Have no history of lung cancer
  • Are not on oxygen
  • Have never undergone lung surgery
  • Have never experienced an unexplained weight loss of more than 15 pounds
  • Have not had a chest CT scan within the past 12 months

If you meet any of the qualifications above, screenings are covered by Medicare and most private insurance with no cost-sharing.

Screening means testing for a disease when there are no symptoms. Low-dose CT screening of the chest looks for lung nodules which may be early lung cancer. This offers the best chance of­ finding lung cancer in its earliest and most curable stages. During the screening, you will lie on a table that passes through the center of the scanner. The screening CT can be performed with a single short breath-hold and takes less than 15 seconds. The procedure is painless. The benefit of finding and treating early lung cancer far outweighs the risk.

The amount of radiation exposure from CT lung cancer screening is about the same as a person would receive from background radiation (such as sun exposure) over a period of one year. A radiologist will interpret your screening chest CT and either recommends a one-year follow-up or further testing. Results are sent to your physician. You will receive a follow-up call from the lung patient navigator and a letter with your results.

To schedule an appointment or discuss your risk factors, contact our Screening and Support Technologist at (920) 623-1271.