Lung Cancer Screening – What to Expect

Find additional information below to help you prepare for your screening appointment.


How is the test performed?

Your lung cancer screening will be performed by a low-dose computed tomography or CT scanner, which is a large donut-shaped machine that produces multiple images of the inside of your body.

Prior to the scan, you will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove all of your jewelry. During the scan, you will lie on your back on a table that slowly slides through the scanner. Both ends of the machine are completely open for you to see and hear outside of the machine. The technologist who administers the scan will be in another room, but will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.

You will need to hold still and may be asked to hold your breath briefly so that a clear picture of your lungs can be obtained.

The scanner may make knocking or clicking sounds. This is normal.

How long does the test take?

The actual scan itself takes less than a minute to complete. From start to finish, the entire appointment takes approximately 30 minutes.

Is there any prep required for the test?

No. There are no dyes or injections required prior to screening and you do not have to follow any special diet before your appointment.

When and how will I get my results?

After your scan, a radiologist will review and interpret your CT images. The results and recommendations will also be provided to your primary care physician.

What are the risks of radiation exposure during a CT scan?

Compared to a conventional CT, the low-dose CT scan for lung cancer uses approximately 5 times less radiation.1 The radiation exposure from one low-dose CT scan of the chest (1.5 mSv) is comparable to 6 months of natural background radiation.2

Though the radiation exposure from a low-dose CT scan is higher than a typical X-ray, the benefits of receiving such a screening dramatically outweigh the risks of not having the screening, especially if lung cancer is detected.

Is lung cancer screening covered under insurance?

Most private health plans as well as Medicare and Medicaid cover lung cancer screening for eligible individuals. Most follow-up care required after the exam should also be covered by your insurance or Medicare/Medicaid.

Talk to Your Doctor

Get help starting a lung cancer screening discussion with your doctor.

Download Discussion Guide

1. 2017 U.S Food and Drug Administration “What are the Radiation Risks from CT?”

2. 2013 National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health “Computed Tomography (CT):Questions and Answers”