Your diagnosis

Lung cancer screening

Screening for lung cancers

Cancer screening means looking for cancer before symptoms appear – sometimes cancer can be easier to treat if it is found early through screening.1

There are many different types of screening depending on the type of cancer that is being checked for. Some examples are mammograms for breast cancer, smear tests for cervical cancer, and stool tests or colonoscopies for colon (gut) cancers.2  

Lung cancer screening for people who haven’t been diagnosed with lung cancer

Lung cancer screening isn’t carried out in all countries.3 In countries where it is, it might only be offered to people above a certain age, or who smoke or used to smoke.3 The screening is done with a machine called a CT (or 'computerised tomography') scanner3 (you can learn more about CT scans here).

If you do have access to a screening programme, speak to your doctor about the benefits of being regularly screened for lung cancer, and the risks involved with screening too.

Lung cancer screening and people with ALK+, RET+, or ROS1+ non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

People with ALK+, RET+, or ROS1+ NSCLC are different from typical lung cancer patients. They are often diagnosed at a younger age (in their 50s or 60s, instead of their 70s) and many people have never smoked or only lightly smoked.4–15 These types of NSCLC are also rare – only between 1% and 5% of people with NSCLC have them.16–18 

Because countries with screening programmes tend to prioritise older people who smoke or who have smoked in the past,3 this means that people with ALK+, RET+, or ROS1+ NSCLC don’t often get called forward for screening. 

This can be especially frustrating if you have been diagnosed with one of these types of NSCLC, and understandably you may be very upset.

Your doctor is there to help you and can help explain your cancer to you in more detail (or you can find more information here on Younity). If you find you are struggling emotionally with your diagnosis, you can also ask them to refer you for mental health support. Ultimately, they will work with you to develop a treatment plan so that you can focus on the future.

If you have already been diagnosed with lung cancer

If you have already been diagnosed with lung cancer, it’s unfortunately too late for screening to be useful. Instead, your doctor will make sure that your treatment plan includes regular scans to keep an eye on your cancer and see if treatment is helping to shrink it or slow down its growth. You can learn more about the different types of scan you might have here.

Click on one of the options below to learn more 

Computerised tomography

  1. National Cancer Institute. Cancer Screening. Available from: Last accessed July 2021.
  2. National Cancer Institute. Screening Tests. Available from: Last accessed July 2021.
  3. Pinksky PF et al. Transl Lung Cancer Res 2018; 7(3): 234–242.
  4. Park S et al. J Thorac Oncol 2018; 13(9): 1373–1382.
  5. Scheffler M et al. Oncotarget 2015; 6(12): 10577–10585.
  6. Tao H et al. Thorac Cancer 2017; 8(1): 8–15.
  7. Melosky B et al. Curr Oncol 2016; 23(3): 196–200.
  8. Camidge DR et al. Lancet Oncol 2012; 13(10): 1011–1019.
  9. Kayaniyil et al. Curr Oncol 2016; 23(6): e589–e597
  10. Lin C et al. Cancer Biol Ther 2015; 16(7): 1019–1028.
  11. Gautschi O et al. J Clin Oncol 2017; 35(13): 1403–1410.
  12. Drilon A et al. J Thorac Oncol 2018; 13(10): 1595–1601.
  13. Digumarthy SR et al. Cancers 2020; 12: 693. 
  14. Park S et al. J Thorac Oncol 2018; 13(9): 1373–1382.
  15. Scheffler M et al. Oncotarget 2015; 6(12): 10577–10585.
  16. Elliot J et al. PLoS One 2020; 15(2): e0229179.
  17. Sehgal K et al. Transl Cancer Res 2018; 7(Suppl 7): S779–S786.
  18. Stinchcombe TE. Ther Adv Med Oncol 2020; 12: 1758835920928634.