Content Map Terms

Guidelines for Lung Cancer Screening

British Columbia Specific Information

Lung screening involves a scan of your lungs using a low-dose CT (LDCT) machine. The scan is free and takes place at a hospital in your community.

A low-dose CT scan is a safe and effective way to screen for lung cancer and can pick up much more than a chest x-ray can. 

Lung screening is best for those who are at high-risk for lung cancer and who are not experiencing any symptoms. This usually includes people who are:

  • 55 to 74 years of age;
  • Currently smoking or have smoked in the past; and,
  • Have a smoking history of 20 years or more.

If you think you meet these requirements, please call the Lung Screening Program at 1-877-717-5864 to complete a consultation and risk assessment over the phone. Not everyone who meets the above requirements will be eligible for lung screening. A risk assessment over the phone is needed to confirm eligibility.

For more information see BC Cancer: BC Cancer Screening: Lung/Get Screened and BC Cancer: Lung

 

Overview

Lung cancer screening is a way to find some lung cancers early, before a person has any symptoms of the cancer.

Lung cancer screening may help those who have the highest risk for lung cancer—people 55 to 74 who are or were heavy smokers.footnote 1 For most people, who aren't at increased risk, screening for lung cancer probably isn't helpful.

Screening won't prevent cancer. And it may not find all lung cancers. Lung cancer screening may lower the risk of dying from lung cancer in a small number of people.

Guidelines

Lung cancer screening programs are not available in all areas. Lung cancer screening is recommended for people ages 55 to 74 years old who are or were heavy smokers.footnote 1 That means people who have a smoking history of at least 30 pack years. A pack year is a way to measure how heavy a smoker you are or were.

To figure out your pack years, multiply how many packs a day on average (assuming 20 cigarettes per pack) you have smoked by how many years you have smoked. For example:

  • If you smoked 1 pack a day for 30 years, that's 1 times 30. So you have a smoking history of 30 pack years.
  • If you smoked 2 packs a day for 15 years, that's 2 times 15. So you have a smoking history of 30 pack years.

Canadian experts recommend lung cancer screening every year up to three years in a row if:footnote 1

  • You are 55 to 74 years old.
  • And you have a smoking history of at least 30 pack years.
  • And you still smoke, or you quit within the last 15 years.

If you have a serious health problem, you and your doctor will decide if lung cancer screening is right for you.

References

Citations

  1. Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (2016). Recommendations on screening for lung cancer. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 188(6): 425–432. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.151421. Accessed December 10, 2019.

Credits

Current as of:
December 17, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine