skip to main content

Lung Cancer Screening Guide

Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer in the United States.

Lung cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. The best prevention is to quit smoking. Screening for lung cancer can also reduce your risk, and the Lung Cancer Screening Clinic is a special clinic designed to follow the recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force to screen high risk patients.

U-M lung specialists Ella A Kazerooni, M.D., M.S., and Douglas Arenberg, M.D., discuss lung cancer screening for those at high risk.

Who Can Benefit from Lung Cancer Screening?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending annual low-radiation CT scans for:

  • Adults aged 50-80 who have a smoked an average of a pack a day for 20 years
  • Adults who currently smoke or who have quit smoking within the last 15 years.

Previously, annual scans were recommended for smokers with 30 “pack years” starting at age 55.

To help you better understand your personal risk for lung cancer and the risks and benefits of screening, we have developed a decision aid. It is available at

What Does the Screening Include?

The screening process begins with an initial low dose CT scan, which can be followed by an office visit, during which the results will be reviewed with you.

It is VERY important to understand that screening for lung cancer is a process, not a single test, so achieving the greatest reduction in your risk of dying from lung cancer requires that you adhere to your doctor’s recommendations for ongoing scans, typically at yearly intervals, and follow up on any abnormalities.

Will My Insurance Cover the Cost?

The U.S. Preventives Services Task Force (USPSTF), the government body that evaluates cancer screening tools, recommends lung cancer screening for people age 55-80 who have smoked at least 30 pack years, and are either current smokers or quit within the last 15 years. Under the Affordable Care Act, the UPSTF recommendation requires private insurance companies to include the service as an essential covered benefit. This became effective for lung cancer screening in January 2015.

You should check with you health insurance plan to determine if this is a covered service for you.

In addition, Medicare, which provides health care benefits to those 65 and older, will cover lung screenings for people age 55-77 who have smoked at least 30 pack years and are either current smokers or quit within the last 15 years.

If a nodule is found, your future scans will also be covered by your health insurance. The office visits should be covered by your insurance. At this office visit you will also be provided with resources for smoking cessation if you have not already stopped.

How do I Get Screened?

We recommend that you contact your primary care physician to determine if you are eligible for a lung cancer screening CT. If eligible, your physician will place an order for the exam. Once you have a physician order, please call the Radiology Call Center at 734-936-4500 to schedule your appointment for the exam; note the exam cannot be scheduled without the order.

If you have questions about lung cancer screening, including whether or not you may be eligible, please contact our Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125 or our Lung Cancer Screening Coordinator at 734-998-6326.