Screening

A low-dose lung screening test is done to find lung cancer early, when treatment may work better.  

Lung cancer screening begins with an initial consultation with a health care provider from the Lung Program who will talk about if you qualify for this screening test. He or she will also talk about the importance of following the annual plan for screening, quitting smoking and following the recommendations after the test.

This screening test is done by doing a CT (computed tomography) exam. A CT exam uses X-ray and a computer to get an in-depth look at your entire chest. The result is an image that provides a clear and detailed picture of your lungs. This exam uses low doses of radiation. You will not need an intravenous (IV) line and contrast will not be used. 

There is some radiation exposure with this type of CT exam. These levels are still considered safe. A CT exam can find small nodules (growths) in at least one out of four people who get this test. Most of the nodules are not cancer. Only three or four for every 100 lung nodules found are cancer.

In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial showed a 20 percent decrease in lung cancer deaths in heavy smokers who received a low-dose lung screening exam. Many people who are diagnosed with lung cancer die because it is found at a very late stage. This screening helps to find lung cancer at an early stage so treatment options are more successful.

Lung cancer screening is recommended if you are:

  • between the ages of 55 and 80
  • have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer (coughing up blood, trouble breathing, frequent infections, fatigue and unexpected weight loss)
  • smoke now or have quit within the last 15 years
  • have a history of heavy smoking (30 pack year history). This means that you have smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years. 

Please note: Medicare will cover the cost of this screening test for people age 55 to 74 years old. Medicare requires that you talk with a health care provider to see if this test is right for you. Other insurance plan coverage may vary. Please call your insurance provider to find out exactly what is and isn't covered under your plan, and how much you have to pay yourself.

  • Your primary care provider can refer you to one of the locations listed below if he or she thinks a screening test is right for you. With this referral, a scheduler will contact you to set up your consult appointment with one of the health care providers from the Lung Program and order the screening test.
  • You can call one of the locations listed below to schedule an initial consultation with a health care provider from the Lung Program to see if you qualify for this screening test. 

Low-dose lung screening is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, some insurance providers do not cover the cost for this exam. 

If you choose to have this screening test done, the amount you will have to pay will be based on:

  • what your health plan covers
  • your copay (a fixed amount you will pay for the test)
  • your coinsurance (your share of the costs of the test)
  • your deductible (any other out-of-pocket costs before your insurance provider pays for any part of the test)

Please call your insurance provider to find out if this exam is covered by your health plan. 

    • If your insurance provider does not cover the cost for this exam, please talk to your primary care provider.

    A board-certified radiologist will look at and interpret all scans. A health care provider from the Lung Program will receive the exam results. He or she will talk with you about the results and determine the next steps in your screening plan.

    There are four Allina Health locations that offer this screening test: