Lung Cancer Screening FAQs

Memorial Hospital's CT lung cancer screening coordinator explains what the requirements are to get a lung cancer screening, what's involved in the process, what happens if suspicious results are found, and if insurance covers the screening.

What are the requirements for lung cancer screening?

You have to be between the ages of 55 and 77. Then, if you smoke, we need to assess how much you've smoked. Criteria for smoking a pack a day for 30 years or what we call a "30-pack-year history." For instance, all of these examples would be considered a "30-pack-year history":

  • A pack a day for 30 years
  • Three-quarters of a pack for 40 years
  • Half a pack for 60 years
  • Two packs a day for 15 years

You do need a physician order. You would just need to call your doctor and talk to them regarding lung cancer screening. 

What's involved in the screening process?

Basically, you lay on your back and the scan takes three to four minutes. You go in the scanner. You go out. You go in the scanner and come back out. The scanner is not closed in. It's like a big donut that is open on the other side, so most people who have claustrophobia do just fine.

How long until results are available?

Typically, I have results within 24 to 48 hours. That result is reviewed by myself and then relayed to the physicians at that time.

What happens after a suspicious result screening?

Depending on the size and shape of the nodule, we would determine if you need to come back in three months, six months, nine months, or if you can just come back at your annual screening. If there is a nodule that is very suspicious, that would go to your physician and then further testing would be warranted for those nodules.

Does insurance typically cover the screening?

Typically, yes, insurance pays for these screenings. It is an approved screening for smokers according to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as long as you meet the criteria outlined above. I would always suggest that you call your private insurance company and make sure it's part of your insurance plan.