Lung Cancer Screening & Diagnostics

Lung Cancer Screening & Diagnostics

Lung cancer accounts for about 27 percent of all cancer deaths. More people die of lung cancer than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Early detection is the key to survival, but the majority of lung cancers are detected in later stages. That’s because symptoms usually don’t appear until the disease is advanced and, in many cases, it’s found only when the person undergoes an X-ray for an unrelated reason.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death because often there are no symptoms until its has spread. The good news is a lung cancer screening can help detect it early when there are more treatment options.

Screening for Lung Cancer

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute offers a screening test called Low-dose Computer Tomography (LDCT) to detect lung cancer. A LDCT is a non-invasive, painless procedure that uses low-dose x-rays to screen the lungs for cancer. The technology is an evidence-based approach utilizing the guidelines set by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Recent studies show that LDCT lung cancer screening is more precise than standard screening methods (i.e. chest x-ray, sputum cytology) in detecting lung cancer. Unlike standard chest x-rays, during a LDCT lung cancer screening cross-sectional images are taken of the lungs. This allows the radiologist to see the lungs from every angle.

Who Should Be Screened?

If you are a current or former smoker, please speak with your physician to discuss your risks and benefits of receiving a low dose CT scan. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute has screening locations throughout Georgia.

If you are a Medicare patient, your physician will use the following criteria to determine whether you should be screened. For non-Medicare patients, similar criteria will be used to determine eligibility. All patients must have a written order from a physician to receive a LDCT lung cancer screening.

Screenings are available for people who show no current lung cancer symptoms (asymptomatic).

If you are unsure if any of your current health conditions are considered symptoms of lung cancer, have any questions about the screenings or to determine eligibility please contact (404) 531-4444.

Eligibility Criteria includes:*

  • Age: 55 - 77 years
  • Symptoms: Asymptomatic (no new cough, shortness of breath, etc.)**
  • Smoking History:
    • Current smoker or quit <15 years**
    • 30+ pack year (1 pack a day for 30 years)
  • Screening Duration: Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years.
  • Shared Decision Making: A Lung Cancer Screening and Shared Decision Making Visit is required to determine eligibility and to receive a Low Dose Computer Tomography lung cancer screening.

Lung Cancer Screening Frequently Asked Questions

As of January 4, 2016, LDCT lung cancer screenings are now covered by Medicare for eligible patients (see eligibility criteria above). Although coverage varies by insurance company, it is worth a phone call to your insurance company to verify whether or not the procedure is covered under your policy.
During the exam, you will lie on your back on an exam table with your arms above your head. You will be required to hold your breath briefly as pictures are being taken. For a short period of time, your body may be covered by a scanner, but the scanner will be open at the back and front so that you can see out. Your technologist will always be able to see and hear you during the 5 minute procedure.
LDCT lung cancer screening does involve exposure to radiation in the form of x-rays. However, the benefit of receiving an accurate diagnosis far outweighs the risk.
If your LDCT lung cancer screening was ordered by your physician, he/she will be responsible for providing you with the results. If the test is ordered by one of our Northside Hospital physicians, you should expect someone to contact you within 7 business days.
Your case will be reviewed by the physicians and providers on our Lung Cancer Screening Team. We will then provide recommendations to you and your primary care physician on how to proceed based upon nationally accepted guidelines.
You and your referring physician will be provided with a copy of the results of your LDCT lung cancer screening.
The most common finding (55 - 56%) during LDCT scans of the lungs is a pulmonary nodule. A pulmonary nodule is a round or oval spot (lesion) in the lungs that can be seen using a chest x-ray or LDCT scan. The finding of a pulmonary nodule does not necessarily indicate lung cancer. In fact, less than 3% of patients with a pulmonary nodule will be found to have lung cancer. After our Lung Cancer Screening Team reviews your LDCT scan, we will then provide recommendations for next steps moving forward.
Northside Hospital offers a dedicated Nurse Navigator for our Lung Cancer Screening Program. If you have additional questions regarding LDCT lung cancer screening or your individual scans, please call the Screening Nurse Navigator directly at 404.303.3746.

Download Lung Cancer Screenings flyer (English)
Download Lung Cancer Screenings flyer (Spanish)

Pulmonary Diagnostic & Therapeutic Endoscopy

A full evaluation by a pulmonologist, with additional imaging scans (chest X-ray, CT, PET), may be involved in the screening and diagnostics for lung cancer. Possible endoscopy procedures may include one that looks inside the bronchial tree, while another may assess enlarged lymph nodes with an ultrasound. A biopsy will ultimately establish a lung cancer diagnosis. Once all of this information is gathered, if cancer is confirmed, staging will take place (based on the size, location and extent of the tumor). This information is important in guiding the oncology team in their treatment recommendations and prognosis.

Northside’s GI and Pulmonary Endoscopy Centers offer diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of lung conditions. Northside's team of pulmonologists (physicians specializing in pulmonary conditions), pulmonary therapeutic specialists and endoscopy nurses are ready to collaborate with you and other related health care specialists, including anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, and radiologists, to develop an individualized plan of care. Learn more about our pulmonary endoscopy services.

The Interventional Pulmonology Program, a subspecialty area within the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer Program, offers advanced, non-invasive techniques and procedures to assist with early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancers, as well as pulmonary nodules and other related diseases. The following procedures are examples of the interventional pulmonology technologies available at Northside. Learn more about our interventional pulmonology program.

Smoking Cessation Program

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking! As part of our comprehensive approach to prevention and early detection, Northside offers BUILT TO QUIT, a smoking and tobacco cessation program to help individuals quit smoking and using other tobacco products. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute's BUILT TO QUIT offers a six-week class that educates participants about the hazards of smoking, the benefits of quitting and strategies/skills to cope with urges. The class is conducted primarily in a group setting, with face-to-face interaction that allows participants to learn from each other’s experiences, but also includes web-based sessions for convenience.

Visit our Community Calendar for 2019 class dates and additional information.

Class Locations: Our smoking cessation classes are offered at all three Northside Hospital campuses.

For additional information or to register for a class, visit our Smoking and Tobacco Resources page, contact (404) 780-7653 or

Should you or someone you love be diagnosed with Lung Cancer, click here to learn more about the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute Lung Cancer program.


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Atlanta, GA 30342
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Canton, GA 30115
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