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Lung Cancer Screening Program

What is a Screening Test?

Lung Cancer Screening Program
Erlanger Cancer Institute
979 East Third Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403

Contact Wendy Firestone
423-778-5281

For people at risk of a disease, a screening test can help detect signs of that disease before it has advanced enough to cause symptoms. This is important because diseases are easier to treat when detected early.  

Are You at Risk for Lung Cancer?

The leading risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. According to the American Cancer Society, at least 80 percent of lung cancer deaths result from smoking.

Benefits of Cancer Screening

Erlanger’s Diagnostic Radiologists can screen you for lung cancer using a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans combine x-ray views from multiple angles, creating a two-dimensional, cross-sectional image of your lungs. Having a lung cancer screening chest CT reduces the chance of dying from lung cancer in those at very high risk of developing lung cancer.

Eligibility for Lung Cancer Screening

To be a candidate for lung screening, you must be:

  • 55 to 80 years old (55 to 77 for Medicare)
  • A smoker or a person who quit smoking less than 15 years ago
  • Have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years. (A pack year is a way of determining how many cigarettes a person has smoked during his or her lifetime. One pack year is equal to smoking 20 cigarettes, or one pack, every day for one year.)
  • Have no new symptoms that could be related to lung cancer
  • Be healthy enough to tolerate curative intent treatment for early stage lung cancer and have not had a chest CT in the last 12 months

What Is Involved in Lung Cancer Screening?

Erlanger's screening process has three steps:

  1. CT scan: The CT scan is quick and painless. It uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to create detailed images. You don’t have to worry about receiving too much radiation during screening. Our low-dose CT scan technology means you’ll experience about a quarter of the radiation emitted by standard CT scans.
  2. Scan review: We will review your CT scan for abnormalities.
  3. Results and follow-up: We will send findings from the CT scan and any recommendations for follow-up to you and your primary care doctor.

Drawbacks to Consider

  • Screening for lung cancer with a chest CT can find small spots in the lungs of at least 25 percent of all people who get the scan. These spots are called lung nodules. Only three or four out of 100 lung nodules found are cancer. The rest are small scars that will never affect your health.
  • There is no way to tell if many of these small lung nodules are scars or lung cancer without further tests. CT scans are usually done over time to see if the lung nodule grows. You might need a biopsy if the lung nodule is large enough.
  • Therefore, many people who are screened will have further tests without actually having lung cancer. The lung cancer screening program will talk with you about whether or not you need more tests. Lung cancer screening CTs use a very small dose of radiation to take pictures of your lungs. The dose of radiation is quite low (five times less than a standard chest CT scan). The effects of radiation from lung cancer screening are not known. The benefits are thought to outweigh any consequences.

Quitting Smoking

If you smoke, you can cut your risk of dying from lung cancer by quitting. We advise all smokers to quit. You can find help from your doctor or through counselors within our screening program.

Components of the UT Erlanger Lung Cancer Screening Program

  • Participation based on national health guidelines
  • Face-to-face discussion about the pros and cons of lung cancer screening to ensure shared decision making
  • Standardized low-dose chest CT
  • Chest CT interpretation by radiologists with expertise in chest imaging
  • Lung nodule evaluation care pathway by a multi-disciplinary team including specialists in pulmonary medicine, thoracic surgery, oncology nurse navigation, respiratory care services, and diagnostic radiology
  • Tobacco treatment experts integrated with the program through Respiratory Care Services 
  • Experts in lung cancer diagnosis and treatment

Patient Resources

Resources to help you decide if lung cancer screening is right for you:

PDF Symbol for Lung Cancer Screening Decision ToolIs Lung Cancer Screening Right for Me? (Decision Making Tool)

PDF Symbol for Tobacco/Smoking Cessation Resource CardSmoking/Tobacco Cessation Resources

PDF Symbol for What to do with the Results of LDCT?What to do with the Results of a Low Dose Lung Cancer Screening CT (LDCT)?

PDF Symbol for Dangers of Smoking CardThe Dangers of Cigarette Smoking

More information about Lung Cancer:

Related Erlanger Services

If you have any questions about our Lung Cancer Screening Program, please contact Wendy Firestone at 423-778-5281.