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Lung Cancer Screening

“Screening” means checking for cancer before symptoms develop, even if you feel healthy. Screening can help detect cancer in its earliest stages.

In this section:

  • • Who should be screened for lung cancer?
    • How we screen for lung cancer
    • What to expect during a lung cancer screening test
    • Why screening matters
    • What comes after screening?
Your healthcare provider should explain these risks to you, so that you can make an informed choice about screening. If you currently smoke, this is a great time to discuss making a plan to cut back or quit!

Who should be screened for lung cancer?

Cancer screening is done on people who may be at risk of getting lung cancer. In Ontario, people aged 55-74 with a smoking history may be referred. A risk assessment will be completed to determine eligibility

How we screen for lung cancer

There is only one recommended type of lung cancer screening test, and that’s low-dose computed tomography, or low-dose CT for short.
A CT scanner uses a rotating X-ray machine to take lots of pictures of the lungs.  Next, the data is combined to create detailed images of your lungs.
“Low-dose” refers to the level of radiation needed to complete the scan. A low-dose CT scan for lung cancer uses about five times less radiation than a conventional CT scan, while still resulting in images that are much more detailed than X-rays.

Wondering if you fit the criteria for lung cancer screening, or looking for help reducing your risk factors? Talk to a Certified Respiratory Educator or Certified Smoking Cessation Counselor through our Lung Health Line. We’re available Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST. Chat live at, email us, or call us toll-free at 1-888-344-LUNG.

Screening - what to expect

What to expect during a lung cancer screening test

First, you’ll change into an exam gown and lie on the able of the CT machine, with your arms raised above your head. The table will slowly pass through the centre of the machine. 

You will be asked to lay still, and may be asked to hold your breath at times. Both ends of the machine will be open, and the technician performing the scan will be able to see and hear you at all times. In most cases, the scan takes just a few minutes.

Why screening matters

  • Because 70% of Canadian lung cancer cases are diagnosed at a late stage (stage III or stage IV). With proper screening protocols in place, we could detect lung cancer in its earlier, more treatable stages.
  • Because it’s a great opportunity to connect with Canadians who need help with quitting smoking!
  • Because screening saves lives.

What we’re doing about it

The Lung Health Foundation is advocating for coast-to-coast publicly funded lung cancer screening programs. Only two provinces, British Columbia and Ontario, have formally adopted such a program. Meanwhile, several other provinces utilize opportunistic screening (screening outside of an organized program, triggered by a healthcare provider)

What comes after screening?

Remember, a “positive” screening result doesn’t necessarily mean that you have lung cancer – but getting answers is important. The sooner you know, the sooner you can act.

If a small growth was spotted, your next steps may include returning for another low-dose CT scan to check for any changes. If your health-care provider spots something more suspicious, you will need further testing, like a biopsy or PET scan.

young female doctor comforts older man in doctors office

Lung Cancer Screening

“Screening” means checking for cancer before symptoms develop, even if you feel healthy. Screening can help detect cancer in its earliest stages.

Middle aged man hugs his adult son. He looks supported.

Diagnosis and Staging

Being diagnosed with lung cancer is often life-changing, and emotional distress is common. Understanding the steps and procedures can help you feel more in control, prepare you to advocate for yourself during your treatment.

Navigating Your Lung Cancer Care

The cancer care system can seem overwhelming at first, but we’re here to help you navigate it in a way that makes you feel empowered and supported. 

Lung Cancer Screening


Your treatment team will consider a number of factors when choosing treatments that will fight your cancer most effectively. They will consider your overall health, age, and personal situation.

An elderly man comforts his wife

Questions and Answers About Coping with Lung Cancer

The questions we list here are the top coping questions reported by people with lung cancer. Our answers provide some basic information, but we encourage you to discuss any concerns or questions with your oncologist and other members of your cancer care team.