Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening
Early detection is a proven, successful strategy for fighting many forms of cancer. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) offers screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT) for people at high risk for lung cancer, the only recommended screening test for the disease.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States. Three out of four people with lung cancer have incurable, locally advanced, or metastatic disease at the time of diagnosis. Their five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent when diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.
Detecting lung cancer at its earliest stage, and having it surgically removed, means a person can expect a five-year survival rate closer to 53 percent. Yet only 15 percent of cases are diagnosed at such an early stage.
People at high risk for lung cancer who benefit from annual screening with low-dose CT according to new guidelines published by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are between 55* and 80 years old, currently smoke or quit in the last 15 years, and smoked at least an estimated
- 1 pack a day for 30 years OR
- 2 packs a day for 15 years
*If you are younger than 55, high false-positive rates in lung cancer screening may have more harms than benefits, leading to more radiation from more imaging, anxiety, and in some cases, lung surgery to determine a diagnosis.
In addition to the above characteristics, you are considered at high risk for lung cancer if you have one additional risk factor:
- Documented high radon exposure
- Occupational exposure to silica, cadmium, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, nickel or diesel fumes
- Are a survivor of lung cancer, lymphoma, or head and neck cancer
- Have a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pulmonary fibrosis
- Have a family history of lung cancer
The second group of high risk patients is meant to be of similar risk of lung cancer as those studied in the National Lung Screening Trial, but it is not completely known how much this group will benefit from CT screening since there are no data from a randomized trial.
Secondhand smoke exposure is NOT an independent risk factor for lung cancer CT screening.
Cost for CT Scan
All health plans, except Medicare and Medicaid, cover lung cancer screening for eligible individuals ages 55 to 80. Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cover lung cancer screening for eligible individuals ages 55 to 77 who are enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. The out-of-pocket cost for the CT screen is $300 in the absence of insurance. Most follow-up care required after the exam will be covered by your insurance or Medicare/Medicaid. Check with your insurance carrier to make sure.
Make an Appointment
If you think you qualify for a low-dose CT screening, you may call the Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic at (206) 288-6734, or have your doctor call us with a referral.
Help to Quit
If you need help quitting smoking, contact SCCA's Living Tobacco-Free Service at (206) 288-7517.
Screening Center of Excellence
SCCA is recognized as a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and advancing research by empowering those living with and at risk for lung cancer. We are one of only two Screening Centers of Excellence in the state of Washington. Learn about the criteria a center must meet in order to be recommended as a Screening Center of Excellence on the Lung Cancer Alliance website.