CT Lung Cancer Screening: Frequently Asked Questions – Part 2

Smoking cigarettes and the use of tobacco products creates the biggest risk for developing lung cancer.  The best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to never smoke, or to quit if currently smoking.  Low-Dose CT Lung Screening can provide early lung cancer detection, prompt earlier treatment and improve outcomes in high risk patients.

Q: Are there any risks associated with CT Lung Screening?

A: There are several things to consider when having any medical testing.  We recommend that you discuss the risks and benefits of screening with your health care provider to determine if LD CT Lung Screening is right for you.

Risks and limitations of this screening exam are listed and explained below:
Radiation Exposure: Low-Dose CT Lung Screening uses x-rays to produce images of your lungs.  The radiation exposure is reduced for this exam using special protocols and techniques.  The amount of radiation used for a typical LDCT Lung Screening is 90% less than a routine CT of the Chest, and can be compared to the radiation exposure of having a screening mammogram. You and your health care provider will decide if the benefits of screening outweigh the potential risk of radiation exposure based on your personal medical history.

Emory Healthcare follows recommendations regarding dose from the American College of Radiology (ACR), all of the CT scanners that are designated for lung screening are accredited by the ACR. Emory Radiology submits radiation dose reports directly from our CT lung screening scanners to the ACR to uphold safety and quality standards.

  • False Negatives: No medical test is 100% effective. It is possible that you can have a medical condition, including cancer that will not be detected through your screening scan.  This is referred to as a “false negative”.  It is suggested that individuals who meet the criteria for lung cancer screening have a LDCT of the chest annually in an effort to reduce false negatives.  Comparisons of previous scans are made by Emory Radiologists to identify small changes in the lung tissue that can be early signs of lung cancer.
  • False Positives: CT Lung Screening scans may detect changes in the lungs that can lead to additional testing, but may not end up being cancer. This is referred to as a “false positive” Your health care provider will partner with our multidisciplinary team to determine the level of concern with any finding and will make the best recommendation with your health and safety in mind.  You will always be a part of the decision making process for your follow up care.
  • Other Findings: When your screening is done, the images that are obtained will include a portion of other areas in your body that are close to your lungs. Sometimes the radiologist may find something of concern in these other regions (i.e.: thyroid, kidneys, adrenal gland, or liver). These findings will be discussed with your health care provider and explained to you. Follow up testing or care will be determined if needed.

Q: Do I need to have a CT Lung Screening done every year?

A: If you meet the criteria for screening, it is recommended that you have a scan annually. This provides a full screening process. It is best to have your scans done each year and compared to years prior to detect small changes. The CT Lung Screening Program at Emory Healthcare is designed to follow you closely to provide individualized care.  Our team will keep up to date on any changes in your personal health history that could impact your screening recommendations or change your specific care plan.

Q: How will I get my results?

A:  Your CT Lung Screening scan will be evaluated by an Emory Radiologist that specializes in images of the chest. The results will be sent to your health care provider. You will receive a letter within 2 weeks that reviews your screening results. If there are any findings that require explanation or follow up before your annual screening visit, you will be contacted personally by our CT Lung Screening Coordinator.

Q: How do I get scheduled for a Low-Dose CT Lung Screening?

A: An order from your health care provider is required for this test.  You will need to schedule an appointment to discuss your personal risk with your health care provider to determine if this screening is right for you. If you meet the criteria, your scan can be scheduled while you are at your provider’s office.