Who Should Think About Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer screening should be offered yearly to adults who are at high risk of lung cancer based on age and smoking history.

In March, 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force updated the eligibility criteria for lung cancer screening. Talk to your health care provider about lung cancer screening if you meet all of the following criteria (if you have Medicare, please see the Medicare criteria for lung cancer screening on this page):

  • You are 50 to 80 years old.
  • You are a current smoker or if a former smoker, you quit less than 15 years ago.
  • You have a smoking history of 20 pack-years or more. Examples of calculating pack-years:
    • 1 pack of cigarettes a day X 20 years = 20 pack-years
    • 2 packs of cigarettes a day X 10 years = 20 pack-years
  • You have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer.

Medicare has different lung cancer screening criteria for age and pack-year smoking history. In November of 2021, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid will release an update of their lung cancer screening coverage criteria, which will take effective by February, 2022. Until that time, if you are a Medicare beneficiary you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • You are 55 to 77 years old.
  • You are a current smoker or if a former smoker, you quit less than 15 years ago.
  • You have a smoking history of 30 pack-years or more. Examples of calculating pack-years:
    • 1 pack of cigarettes a day X 30 years = 30 pack-years
    • 2 packs of cigarettes a day X 15 years = 30 pack-years
  • You have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer.

If you think you are eligible for lung cancer screening, have a shared decision making conversation with your health care provider to talk about the benefits lung cancer screening and the possible risks, thinking about your personal health history and preferences. In most cases, the benefits of lung cancer screenings are greater than the possible risks. Deciding to be screened for lung cancer means you must also think about having a yearly LDCT and the possibility of follow-up testing and treatment if anything suspicious is found.

The following lung cancer screening decision aids have much more information to help you understand lung cancer screening and get ready for a shared decision making visit with your provider