CT Screening

Lung cancer is often diagnosed in the late stages of the disease, primarily because there are few or no symptoms in the early stages. Early detection changes everything, from quality of life to life expectancy.

UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a low-dose CT lung cancer screening to look for potentially cancerous spots in people who are at the highest risk for developing lung cancer. If you are over 55 and have smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, your risk for lung cancer is high enough to be screened. 

The CT Advantage

The primary purpose of a CT (computed tomography) screening is to detect and diagnose lung cancer at an early stage to improve treatment options and effectiveness. The pictures of the lungs provided by a low-dose CT scan are better for finding abnormalities than a traditional chest X-ray.

Our specialists review the CT images for the presence of lung nodules, masses, or other abnormalities suspicious for lung cancer and, if any are found, can begin the necessary treatment.

A screening trial of 53,454 current or former heavy smokers conducted by the National Cancer Institute revealed that participants who received low-dose helical CT scans had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest X-rays.

The amount of radiation received during a lung cancer screening CT exam is less than the amount received annually from naturally occurring radiation that’s present in the environment. Our state-of-the-art imaging services are accredited by the American College of Radiology.

Risks and Considerations

CT scans can potentially pick up spots in the lungs that are ultimately revealed to be not cancerous, but their presence may lead to anxiety about the findings. The process to determine if these spots are benign or malignant can include additional procedures to help diagnose the findings and, in a small percentage of cases, may involve surgeries that would otherwise not be recommended. Also, the small dose of radiation from the exam poses a small and negligible risk of causing cancer.

Insurance and CT Screening

The CT screening may be covered by some health insurance carriers if certain criteria are met:

  • Age 55 – 77 (80 for managed care)
  • History of smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years
  • No other lung disease issues
  • If smoking was stopped, it was within the last 15 years or less

If you think you meet these criteria, please check with your primary care physician. 

What You Can Expect During the Screening

During your exam, you will be lying flat on the CT table while the scanner rotates around you, gathering images of the inside of your lungs. The CT images provide the radiologist with detailed information that will be used to detect and diagnose disease. The entire screening exam typically is completed in approximately 10 minutes.

How We Deliver Your Results

A UT Southwestern radiologist will interpret the exam. The results will be provided to both you and the physician you designate when scheduling your appointment for the screening. As a follow-up to your exam, you can call the Lung Cancer Screening Program at 214-645-8300 to schedule an appointment to discuss the findings with a UT Southwestern pulmonary specialist. This appointment is not included in the screening fee, but we will check to confirm coverage by your health insurance provider.

Request an Appointment

To schedule a CT lung cancer screening, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.