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Lung cancer screening

Early detection of lung cancer is the most powerful way to reduce the risk of death from this disease. A lung screening CT scan can find lung cancer before symptoms develop and the cancer spreads.

Lung screening CT is considered preventive care if you’re at high risk for developing lung cancer. If you are considered high risk, your insurance or Medicare plan should cover the cost of your test in full, with no co-pay.

You’re considered high-risk if:

  • You’re between the ages of 50-80
  • You’ve smoked cigarettes in the past 15 years
  • You have a smoking history of at least one pack per day for 20 years or comparable (i.e., ½ pack per day for 40 years)

If you’re not considered high risk, we can discuss your options with you.

What to Expect

  • Preparing for Your Lung Screening

    There are no special instructions to follow before the test. However, your healthcare provider must order a lung screening CT before your appointment can be scheduled. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, we may be able to assist you. 

    • Arriving for Your Appointment

      You’ll need to arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointment time to check in and complete paperwork.

    • What Happens During Your Lung Cancer Screening

      Before your scan you will meet with a nurse practitioner to discuss your health history and the specific risks and benefits of this screening test. This may be done in person or by telehealth/phone and takes about 5 to 15 minutes.
      When you are ready for your scan, you’ll lie on a table that will move you through the center of a doughnut-shaped CT scanner. As you’re moved through the scanner, you’ll need to stay as still as possible. We may ask you to hold your breath for a few seconds while we take images of your chest.
      Most lung screening scans take less than 10 seconds. The entire test is usually completed in 5 minutes. From check-in to check-out, you should plan for your CT visit to last about 20 minutes. In some cases, it might be longer

    • What Happens After Your Lung Cancer Screening

      There are no special instructions to follow after your scan. 

      A nurse practitioner or radiologist will call to discuss your results with you within two business days after your scan. You can view your results online at My Health at Vanderbilt, our secure online health tool. We’ll also send you a letter with the results.

      If an abnormality is found during your scan, results will be shared with your referring doctor. They’ll discuss any necessary follow-up steps with you, which might include getting additional imaging tests or making an appointment with a pulmonologist (lung doctor). 

    • Other Lung Cancer Screening Options

      Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center offers a lung cancer screening clinical trial for eligible participants. Participants are offered a series of screening tests and receive close follow-up over the course of five years.