What is Lung-Cancer Screening?

Every cancer begins with a single abnormal cell. Lung-cancer screening is an imaging test performed to find lung-cancer before it has spread and when it is most treatable. The procedure is quick and safe, and done without needles, incisions, or excessive radiation exposure.

Advances in CT (formerly known as “CAT Scan”) technology allow us to find nodules in the lungs when they are very small and have no related symptoms. If a nodule is found, its size and shape may suggest immediate need for treatment – which may include removing the nodule surgically – or the size and shape may indicate that we monitor the nodule for suspicious changes by repeating this safe CT-scanning process over time.

Not every nodule found is cancer. The earlier that a lung nodule is found and medically characterized, the better the outcome for you.

What Happens During a Low-Dose CT Lung-Cancer Screening?

During a low-dose CT scan, you will lie face up on a table that will pass through the CT machine. Low-level X-rays are used to take detailed images of your lungs with no needles or invasive devices involved. The procedure is short and painless.

After the CT screening is done, one of Guthrie’s board-certified radiologists will interpret the results. A Guthrie lung nurse navigator will contact you to coordinate your follow-up care and/or annual screening based on the results.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Lung-Cancer

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, speak with your provider about next steps:
  • A new cough that persists or worsens
  • Chest pain, especially if it worsens, with a deep breath or during laughing
  • A hoarse voice
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum/phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Repeat, or persistent, infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia
  • Wheezing

Some people with lung-cancer, especially early on, have no symptoms. That is why this type of CT screening is recommended, to spot the cancer earlier, before it spreads.

Smokers are at an increased risk of lung-cancer, especially heavier smokers, at older ages. Even if you have quit smoking, your risk of lung-cancer is greater than if you never smoked. Whether you are an active for former long-term smoker, this screening is for you.

Medicare recommends low-dose CT lung screening for people who:

  • Smoking Chart
    Pack-year is calculated using the number of packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years of smoking.
    Are 55-77 years old
  • Do not have any signs or symptoms of lung-cancer
  • Have not had a previous lung-cancer
  • Currently smoke or quit smoking less than 15 years ago
  • Are, or were, a heavy smoker (20 pack-year history)

Call 570-887-2847 and choose option 3 to speak to a Guthrie provider and learn if you qualify for low-dose lung cancer screening. 

Will Insurance Cover Lung-Cancer Screening?

Most private insurance and Medicare plans cover lung-cancer screenings for people who meet certain requirements:

  • Have at least a 20 pack-year history
  • Are between the ages of 55-77 (up to age 80 with some commercial insurance plans)
  • Have a written order from a health care provider
  • Have discussed the related risks, benefits, and possible follow-ups during an appointment with a health care professional prior to the low-dose CT. This visit is called a shared decision-making appointment.

For Medicare, patients must also go to a screening facility that participates in the lung-cancer screening registry for Medicare patients.

How to Schedule a Lung-Cancer Screening Appointment at Guthrie

Guthrie offers shared decision-making and screening appointments at many locations, including:


  • Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital
  • Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital, Towanda Campus
  • Guthrie Troy Community Hospital
  • Guthrie Wellsboro

New York:

  • Guthrie Big Flats
  • Guthrie Corning Hospital
  • Guthrie Cortland Medical Center
  • Guthrie Ithaca

To speak to a Guthrie provider and/or see if you qualify for lung-cancer screening, call 570-887-2847 and select option 3. You may be scheduled at any of Guthrie’s Medicare-approved screening sites, in Pennsylvania or New York.

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