Lung Cancer Screening: Questions for the doctor

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Most people who develop lung cancer (more than 8 in 10) get it from smoking. If you currently smoke, the best way to lower your risk of developing lung cancer is to quit.

Ask your doctor about getting screened (tested) for lung cancer if all of these apply to you:

  • You're age 50 to 80
  • You have a history of heavy smoking — specifically, you smoked an average of 1 pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years — or 2 packs a day for 10 years
  • You smoke now, or you quit within the last 15 years

Your doctor may suggest that you get screened once a year with LDCT (low-dose helical computed tomography). LDCT takes detailed pictures of your lungs, which can help find lung cancer early – when it may be easier to treat.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover lung cancer screening for adults ages 50 to 80 who are at high risk for lung cancer. This means you may be able to get screened at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.

What do I ask the doctor?

Visiting the doctor can be stressful. It helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You may also want to ask a family member or close friend to go with you to take notes.

Print out these questions and take them to your appointment.

  • What is my risk for lung cancer?
  • Do you recommend that I get screened for lung cancer? Why or why not?
  • If you recommend this screening for me, how often do I need to get it?
  • What will happen when I get screened for lung cancer? How do I prepare?
  • Does the screening have any risks or side effects?
  • How long will it take to get the results?
  • If the results show that I may have cancer, will I need more tests to be sure?
  • Can you suggest ways to help me quit smoking?
  • What else can I do to lower my risk of lung cancer?

Content last updated March 15, 2021

Reviewer Information

This information on lung cancer screening was adapted from materials from the National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Reviewed by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Cancer Institute

August 2018

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