X-Ray Screening for Lung Cancer

Last Modified: January 7, 2013

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My father died of lung cancer at 57 years old. He was a 3 pack a day smoker. I am now 52 years old and have been an on-again, off-again smoker (1 pack a day) for 30 years. I had quit once for 7 years and two other time for 1-2 years. I no longer smoke. Would you suggest that someone in my position get an xray because I am at risk? Thank you.


Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN OncoLink Nurse Educator responds:

Chest x-rays have never been shown to be a useful tool for screening for lung cancer. Recent studies have studied the ability of Low-dose Chest CT for lung cancer screening. The National Lung Screening Trial was a large study that compared annual CT vs. CXR. Patients in the study had to be over age 55, and a smoking history of 30 pack years (i.e 1 pack per day for 30 years). The use of Chest CT led to improved detection of lung cancer at an earlier stage, and an overall improvement in outcomes from lung cancer. The role of CT screening for any individual patient should be discussed with their personal physician. Since we know that lung cancer rates are higher in individuals for family history of lung cancer, it is particular important for patients with a family history of lung cancer to not smoke.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire transcript from the Focus on Lung Cancer Webchat.

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