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Lung Cancer

Early detection of lung cancer can save your life. 

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. More people die from lung cancer than breast, colon, pancreas and prostate cancer combined. The early-stage survival rate is 53.5%; however, only 15% of lung cancer cases are currently found in the early stage. It’s often responsive to treatment with early detection, but most cases are not diagnosed until later stages, when the survival rate is only 3.9%. This is why screenings are so important. 

The lung cancer screening program can help those with a high risk of developing lung cancer, so they can receive their diagnosis at an early stage, even before symptoms develop.

Who should be screened?
Recent federal guidelines recommend that long-term, pack-a-day smokers receive an annual screening for lung cancer using low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) imaging. The guidelines are based on findings from a large study conducted by the National Cancer Institute that proved screening people at high risk for developing lung cancer with low-dose CT scans reduced mortality from lung cancer by 20%.

Lung cancer screening is not appropriate for everyone. You may qualify if you fall into one of these categories:

Category 1

  • 55-77 years old
  • Are currently a smoker or have quit within the past 15 years
  • Have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 30+ years

Category 2

  • 55-77 years old
  • Have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 20+ years
  • Have one additional lung cancer risk factor, not to include second-hand smoke exposure

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer may originate in the lungs (primary cancer), or may start elsewhere in the body and spread to the lungs (secondary cancer). The two main types of lung cancer are:

  • Small cell lung cancer, which is a fast-growing cancer. 
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is more common, making up about 85% of all lung cancers. When discovered in its earliest stages, NSCLC is one of the most treatable cancers.


If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, your doctor will determine the type and stage of cancer to plan the best treatment for you. Dignity Health offers comprehensive care for those fighting lung cancer, from the initial diagnosis to the final phase of treatment.


Your doctor will work with other cancer specialists to design the best treatment course for your particular cancer. Treatments options include:

  • Surgery is the most effective treatment for early-stage NSCLC. During surgery, the physician removes cancerous tissue and other affected structures. The amount the surgeon removes depends on how much cancer has spread.
  • Chemotherapy uses oral or IV drugs to kill cancer.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells.


If you are at risk of lung cancer, talk to your doctor about getting a lung cancer screening. Your chance of surviving is highest when the disease is discovered in its earliest stages before it has spread.

Smoking tobacco is the number one cause of lung cancer. If you are a smoker, take steps to quit or do not start. Avoid second-hand smoke at home, in public, and at work.

Also, it’s important to follow a healthy diet, get regular check-ups and get adequate exercise.

Learn More

Call our Clinical Nurse Liaison to discuss the benefits and risks associated with lung cancer screening, and determine if the test is appropriate for you.