Who should be screened for lung cancer?

Our recommendation

If you currently smoke tobacco or used to smoke tobacco and you’re between 55 and 74 years of age, you should get screened for lung cancer using a low-dose CT (computed tomography) scan.

You should be screened once each year for 3 years or until you’re told that you're unlikely to benefit from screening. Screening will unlikely benefit you if you develop other serious health conditions that can make you too frail for lung cancer treatment.

What you should know about lung cancer screening

People who currently smoke tobacco or used to smoke tobacco have the highest risk of developing lung cancer. Research shows that screening with a CT scan using lower doses of radiation (called a low-dose CT scan) can find lung cancer in these people before they have any symptoms. This might help lower their risk of dying from lung cancer.

Lung cancer screening using chest x-rays and a sputum test is not recommended. Studies show that these tests are not effective in finding lung cancer early.

How do I know if I am at high risk for lung cancer?

Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for lung cancer. Your risk is based on your smoking history.

You may be at high risk and should consider getting screened if you have a smoking history of 20 years or more (it doesn’t have to be 20 consecutive years).

People with a smoking history of 30 pack-years should also look into screening for lung cancer. Pack-years are used to describe how many cigarettes you have smoked in your lifetime, with a pack equal to 20 cigarettes. Here’s how pack-years are calculated:

(number of cigarettes smoked per day ÷ 20 cigarettes per pack) × number of years = pack-years

If you aren’t at high risk for lung cancer, you shouldn’t be screened for this disease. There isn’t enough evidence to know if screening is effective for people who don’t have a high risk based on their smoking history or other risk factors for lung cancer.