Lung cancer

In March 2016, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) issued new recommendation guidelines in favor of lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT).

For any questions:

This type of screening is recommended for adults:

  • 55 to 74 years old
  • with a smoking history of at least 30 packs a year: (average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day) x (number of years of smoking);
  • who currently smoke or quit smoking less than 15 years ago 

For all other adults, regardless of age, smoking history or other risk factors, the CTFPHC does not recommend screening for lung cancer with LDCT. They also do not recommend screening for lung cancer by chest X-ray.

Unlike population-based screening programs for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, lung cancer screening is delivered to a high-risk population.

If you think you meet all the criteria, contact your primary care professional or family physician to consider annual screening for up to three consecutive years.

What is LDCT?

Conventional tomography is one of the best diagnostic imaging technologies modern medicine has to offer. The machine uses a type of X-ray similar to regular radiography, but rotates around the patient. The information obtained is processed by a powerful computer that produces very accurate images of various parts of the body. A contrast agent is sometimes needed for a clearer view of organs and anomalies.

Low-dose computed tomography only uses 10 percent of the radiation dose usually required in conventional tomography. The imaging takes only 10 to 12 seconds and one breath. No contrast agent is required.

While the CTFPHC recommendations highlight areas for further research, the field of lung cancer screening is continuing to evolve and new data is being published in areas relating to risk assessment, patient selection, false negatives, and cost-effectiveness. The collection of data by organized lung screening initiatives in the Canadian context will support lung cancer screening quality and help to address remaining evidence gaps in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of screening.