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UPMC Lung Cancer Screening Program

Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of both men and women in the United States. Lung cancer screening looks for potentially cancerous spots in the lung. The name for these spots is pulmonary nodules.

Screening is best with a low-dose CT scan. This imaging test can detect nodules up to 10 times smaller than those seen on an x-ray. It offers the best chance of finding lung cancer in its earliest, most curable stages.

Low-Dose CT Scan Lung Cancer Screening

UPMC Imaging Services offers eligible candidates easy access to lung cancer screenings. They do this through the UPMC Lung Cancer Screening Program. The screening CT scans take only a few minutes.

Board-certified radiologists and a team of medical experts review your results. Should your scan shows nodules, the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center network is here for you.

Is Lung Cancer Screening Right For You?

This shared decision-making tool will give you the facts about lung cancer screenings. It can help you learn more about your options, benefits, and risks.

Contact your doctor with questions about the tool or to discuss your results. You need a referral for a lung cancer screening, so ask your doctor if you're a candidate.

Hillman Lung Cancer Care Patient Resources

Who should get lung cancer screening?

You should think about getting lung cancer screening if you:

  • Are between the ages of 50 and 77 (most commercial plans cover people up to 80).
  • Smoked for at least 20 pack-years in your life. Pack-years is an estimate of how much you've smoked. It is the number of packs of cigarettes per day times the number of years you smoked.
  • Are a current smoker or quit in the past 15 years.
  • Have no present symptoms of lung cancer. Symptoms include coughing up blood and chest pain.

What are the risk factors for developing lung cancer?

Risk factors that increase your chance of getting lung cancer include:

  • Radon or asbestos exposure.
  • A personal history of cancer.
  • A strong family history of lung cancer.
  • Significant secondhand smoke exposure.
  • Exposure to diesel fumes.
  • Working as a firefighter.
  • Having COPD or pulmonary fibrosis.

If you meet the screening criteria, you may schedule your lung cancer screening at one of UPMC's imaging locations. Talk to your insurance provider about your plan's coverage. Ask about their requirements for lung cancer screenings.

Your doctor can still decide that you need lung cancer screening, even if you don't meet the criteria. They can prescribe a lung cancer screening for you.

Not sure if lung cancer screening is right for you? Talk to your doctor to discuss your options. We need a prescription for lung cancer screening.

What are the warning signs of lung cancer you should know?

It's vital to see your doctor if you notice any of the following lung cancer symptoms. Other ailments or health issues can cause some of these symptoms. So, a complete check-up with an expert can put you on the right path.

Symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Persistent cough.
  • Sudden or ongoing chest, back, or shoulder pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Fatigue.
  • Asthma.

Lung cancer often doesn't show symptoms until the later stages. When it shows signs, lung cancer may have spread to other body parts.

  • Cancer that spreads to the brain or spinal cord can cause headaches, dizziness, balance problems, or numbness in the limbs.
  • Cancer that has spread to the liver can cause yellowing of the skin and eyes, also known as jaundice.
  • Cancer that has spread to the skin or lymph nodes may show up as lumps on the body.

We do not want to scare you into thinking the worst. Knowing what can happen without screening encourages you to take action and control your health.

Screenings are a solid diagnostic tool for uncovering the facts. And they'll help you and your doctor deal with any issues we find head-on. We have the technology and expertise to support you, no matter the screening result.

How does a lung cancer screening work?

The actual screening process is simple.

We do not use contrast dye, so there are no shots and nothing to prepare.

People getting the screening change into a gown and lie on the CT scanner table. The CT scanner makes a few rotations around the chest, completing the test.

We mail the results to you and the doctor who referred you.

For a positive or concerning lung cancer screening result, UPMC offers a team approach.

Our skilled specialists quickly assess and treat pulmonary nodules.

The team includes thoracic surgeons, lung doctors, and interventional radiologists. They work together to evaluate each nodule thoroughly.

Our nodule team will make a plan of care tailored to you using the most advanced treatments.

Where We Offer Lung Cancer Screenings

UPMC offers convenient access to lung cancer screenings throughout our network.

Once you make your appointment, a patient navigator will follow up. They'll ask questions and make sure screening is right for you.

UPMC Health Plan designated each of these sites as a Center of Excellence. That means they'll guarantee you receive the highest-quality services no matter what site you visit.

Please call a center near you to plan a visit or learn more about lung cancer screenings.

Science Supports Lung Cancer Screenings

UPMC helped with a landmark study on reduced lung-cancer deaths with low-dose CT scans.

The study found these screenings can reduce death from lung cancer by up to 20% for eligible, high-risk people.

Since lung cancer often shows no symptoms until it has spread, screenings can help ensure doctors find the cancer early.

Leaders in lung cancer research

UPMC is a leader in lung cancer research through the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PLuSS). These studies led the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce to recommend lung cancer screenings for those who qualify.

To find out if you're eligible for PLuSS, call 412-623-3319.

John Davis: Lung Cancer Screening Patient Story

John Davis participated in the Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PLuSS), which led experts at UPMC Esophageal and Lung Surgery Institute to diagnose his lung cancer at an early stage and perform lung resection surgery to remove it.

Read John's story»

Mary Zanotto:  Lung Cancer Screening Patient Story

Despite receiving a lung cancer diagnosis, Mary was grateful that a low-dose CT scan revealed the cancer at an early stage. After undergoing a minimally invasive procedure, she's feeling healthy and has improved quality of life.

Read Mary's Story »