Prevention

Lung cancer screening

Together, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and UW Medicine offer screening for people at high risk for lung cancer. The simple and quick scan, called a low-dose computed tomography (CT), is the only recommended screening test for the disease. Survival rates for lung cancer improve dramatically when it's detected early.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. 
The most important risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. While the prognosis for lung cancer is generally poor, finding it in its early stage has a better chance of survival since this is when it is the most treatable.

Following the merger of long-time partners, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the organization was renamed to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. We are an independent, nonprofit organization that also serves as UW Medicine's cancer program.

Computed tomography A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are used to create three-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are taken from different angles and are used to create three-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the tissues and organs show up more clearly. This scan may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment or find out how well treatment is working. Prognosis A statement about the likely outcome of a disease in a patient. Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease. Stage The extent of a cancer in the body. Staging is usually based on the size of the tumor, whether lymph nodes contain cancer and whether the cancer has spread from the original site to other parts of the body.

Should I get screened?

You may benefit from annual screening if all of these are true:

  • You are between 50 and 80 years old.
  • You currently smoke, or you quit in the last 15 years.
  • You smoked an average of at least 1 pack a day for 20 years or 2 packs a day for 10 years.

These guidelines come from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Learn More at USPSTF

Additional screening criteria

If you are 50 or older and have smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years or more, you should consider screening if you have one of the following risk factors:

  • You have documented high radon exposure.
  • You have had occupational exposure to silica, cadmium, asbestos, arsenic, beryllium, chromium, nickel or diesel fumes.
  • You are a survivor of lung cancer, lymphoma or head and neck cancer.
  • You have a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or pulmonary fibrosis.
  • You have a family history of lung cancer.

This group of high-risk patients is meant to be of similar risk for lung cancer as those in the first section. 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.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease A type of lung disease marked by permanent damage to tissues in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. It develops over many years and is usually caused by cigarette smoking. Also called COPD. A type of lung disease marked by permanent damage to tissues in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease includes chronic bronchitis, in which the bronchi (large air passages) are inflamed and scarred, and emphysema, in which the alveoli (tiny air sacs) are damaged. It develops over many years and is usually caused by cigarette smoking. Also called COPD. Computed tomography A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are used to create three-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are taken from different angles and are used to create three-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the tissues and organs show up more clearly. This scan may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment or find out how well treatment is working. Lymphoma Cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Cancer that begins in cells of the immune system. There are two basic categories of lymphomas. One is Hodgkin lymphoma, which is marked by the presence of a type of cell called the Reed-Sternberg cell. The other category is non-Hodgkin lymphomas, which includes a large, diverse group of cancers of immune system cells. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas can be further divided into cancers that have an indolent (slow-growing) course and those that have an aggressive (fast-growing) course. These subtypes behave and respond to treatment differently. Both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas can occur in children and adults, and prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and the type of cancer. Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.

Screening Resources

Calculate your risk
Calculate your risk

Calculate your lung cancer risk with a quick online survey. 

Lung cancer screening interview
Lung cancer screening interview

Fred Hutch providers and patients discuss the benefits of lung cancer screening. 

Request an appointment

If you think you qualify for screening, please contact your primary care doctor to obtain an order for the exam. Orders can be faxed to (206) 606-6729.

CT Lung Cancer Screening Order Form (PDF) 

Once an order has been placed and you are ready to schedule or if you have any questions about our Lung Cancer Screening Program, please call us at (206) 606-1434.

We offer six convenient locations throughout Puget Sound:

Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.
Illustrated map of Puget Sound region with pins showing lung screening locations
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center - South Lake Union
  • UW Medical Center - Montlake
  • UW Medical Center - Roosevelt 
  • UW Medical Center - Northwest
  • Harborview Medical Center
  • UW Medicine Eastside Specialty Center

To promote Indigenous health, Fred Hutch established the həliʔil Program to reach out to tribal nations and Indigenous groups in our region to promote lung cancer screening.

Learn More About the həliʔil Program

Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.

What does screening involve?

The scan is fast, simple, painless and you can stay fully clothed. A low-dose CT scan is a special kind of X-ray that takes multiple pictures as you lie on a table that slides in and out of the machine. A computer then combines these images into a detailed picture of your lungs.

Computed tomography A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are used to create three-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A procedure that uses a computer linked to an X-ray machine to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. The pictures are taken from different angles and are used to create three-dimensional (3-D) views of tissues and organs. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the tissues and organs show up more clearly. This scan may be used to help diagnose disease, plan treatment or find out how well treatment is working.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does insurance cover lung cancer screening?

Most private health plans, Medicaid and Medicare cover lung cancer screening for eligible populations. Follow-up care required after the exam will likely be covered by your insurance or Medicare or Medicaid; however, please contact your insurance carrier to check your coverage or call Patient Financial Services at (206) 606-6226 with any questions regarding authorizations. 

Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.
Why choose Fred Hutch/UW Medicine's program for lung cancer screening?

Center of Excellence sealOur program was one of the first in the nation to be named a Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance. We are also accredited by the American College of Radiology. 

If your screening shows that you need further care, the doctors in our Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic and our lung cancer program are ready to help guide you through next steps.

Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.
Where can I find resources to help quit smoking?

The best way to reduce your risk of getting lung cancer is to stop smoking. It can be hard to quit smoking, but you can do it. And, you don’t have to do it alone. Your care team is here to support you. Here are some additional resources that can help you succeed:

Other screening programs

Colorectal cancer screening

The American Cancer Society recommends colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 45 for people who have no known risk factors other than age. The frequency depends on the screening method.

Fred Hutch’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Prevention Program offers a personalized approach to risk assessment, screening and prevention for people at high risk for gastrointestinal cancers.

Learn More 

Gastrointestinal Refers to the stomach and intestines. Also called GI. Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.
Breast cancer screening

Fred Hutch physicians recommend women 40 or older have a screening mammogram every year if they are at average risk for breast cancer. This matches guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers.

Fred Hutch is recognized as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology. Our research works to improve early detection of breast cancer using imaging.

Learn more

Imaging In medicine, a process that makes pictures of areas inside the body. Imaging uses methods such as X-rays (high-energy radiation), ultrasound (high-energy sound waves) and radio waves. Mammogram An X-ray of the breast. An X-ray of the breast. A mammogram is a method of finding breast cancer that can’t be felt using the fingers. Mammograms are done with a special type of x-ray machine used only for this purpose. Screening Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease Checking for disease when there are no symptoms. Because screening may find diseases at an early stage, there may be a better chance of curing the disease. Examples of cancer screening tests are the mammogram (for breast cancer), colonoscopy (for colon cancer) and Pap and HPV tests (for cervical cancer). Screening can also include a genetic test to check for a person’s risk of developing an inherited disease.