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.
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).
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.
Calculate your lung cancer risk with a quick online survey.
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:
- 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.
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.
When Bill Eberhart relocated to Sequim, Wash., from Hawaii, several years ago, he needed to find new doctors. Eberhart made an appointment with a new primary care provider, who asked if he was a smoker. “I used to be,” Eberhart responded, “but I haven’t smoked in over five years.” Still, when the doctor heard that Eberhart, 71, had smoked for more than 40 years before that, he immediately recommended lung cancer screening.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Our 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.
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
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.
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.