COVID-19 Resources: Keeping you safe | Vaccine Information | Visitor Policy and Hours
View All Services
Find a New Primary Care Provider
Search by Specialty
View All Locations
Discover classes, events, tours, and groups that fit your interests.
Home > Be Healthy > Health Library > Lung Cancer Screening: Low-Dose Spiral CT Scan
Screening tests help your doctor look for a problem before you have symptoms. Lung cancer screening is a way to find some lung cancers early, when a cure is more likely and when cancer is more treatable.
If your doctor recommends lung cancer screening, you'll have a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan of your chest once a year. A special scanner called a spiral CT makes circular movements around your body. This doughnut-shaped machine sends low-dose X-rays, or radiation, through your chest to make detailed pictures. A low-dose CT uses much less radiation than a regular-dose CT scan. A doctor looks at the pictures of your lungs for growths, called nodules, that could be cancer.
Most people don't need routine lung cancer screening. It's only recommended for people who have a high risk for lung cancer.
Your doctor may recommend that you get screened each year if:
In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.
You may need to take off any jewelry, and some clothing, such as a bra. You will be given a gown to use during the test.
During the test, you will lie on a table that is attached to the CT scanner.
The table slides into the round opening of the scanner, and the scanner moves around your body. The table will move while the scanner takes pictures. You may hear a click or buzz as the table and scanner move.
It is very important to lie still during the test.
You may be alone in the scanning room. But a technologist will watch you through a window and talk with you during the test.
The test will take about 30 to 60 minutes. Most of this time is spent getting ready for the scan. The actual test takes a few minutes.
The test will not cause pain.
The table you lie on may feel hard, and the room may be cool. It may be hard to lie still during the test.
Some people feel nervous inside the CT scanner. Tell the technologist or doctor how you feel.
Your doctor will likely get back to you with complete results in 1 to 2 days.
No growths (nodules) were found in your lungs.
Next step: Another low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer in 1 year.
A nodule or nodules were found, but because of their small size, you don't need to do anything else right now.
Next step: Another low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer in 3 to 6 months.
A nodule or nodules were found, and at least one of them is large enough for your doctor to talk to you about having more tests now.
Next step: Your doctor may suggest any of these tests:
Current as of:
November 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Martin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineHoward Schaff MD - Diagnostic Radiology
Current as of: November 4, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Howard Schaff MD - Diagnostic Radiology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.