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Screening for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers and is the leading cause of cancer death in Ontario. The reason so many people die from lung cancer is that by the time it is usually diagnosed, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body or is too big. When the cancer has spread or is too big, treatment has less of a chance of working.

Cancer screening is testing done on people who may be at risk of getting cancer, but who generally feel fine.

We now have an effective and evidence-based way to check, or screen, people for lung cancer. That means we can find some lung cancers early, when treatment has a better chance of working.

Lung Cancer Screening Test

People who are at high risk of getting lung cancer and qualify to get screened will be offered a special type of computed tomography (CT) scan that uses a small amount of radiation. This test is called a “low-dose CT scan.”

For people who are at high risk of getting lung cancer, getting screened with a low-dose CT scan is the best way to find lung cancer early when treatment has a better chance of working.

However, screening tests are not perfect and can have risks. It is important to understand these risks before you decide to get screened. If you contact an Ontario Lung Screening Program site hospital and if you qualify to get screened, a hospital staff member, called a screening navigator, will tell you about the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening over the phone. They will also go over this information again on the day of your screening appointment. This will help you decide whether you want to get screened.

Who Should Get Lung Cancer Screening

You may qualify for lung cancer screening if you:

  • are 55 to 74 years old, and
  • have smoked cigarettes every day for at least 20 years (it does not have to be 20 years in a row, which means there could be times when you did not smoke)

To find out if you may qualify for screening, contact your healthcare provider, or call the participating Ontario Lung Screening Program site hospital closest to you. To find participating hospitals, see Ontario Lung Screening Program Locations.

People who are not at high risk of getting lung cancer should not get screened because there may be more risks than benefits for them.

If you think you have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer, speak with your family doctor or other healthcare provider. Screening may not be right for you.

Where to Get Screened

Lung cancer screening has been available since June 2017 and is currently happening at specific hospitals in Ontario through the Ontario Lung Screening Program, formerly known as the Lung Cancer Screening Pilot for People at High Risk.

Lung cancer screening for people at high risk is still available through the hospitals that participated in the pilot.

For participating hospitals and contact information, see Ontario Lung Screening Program Locations.

Ontario Lung Screening Program

The Ontario Lung Screening Program is Ontario’s organized screening program for people at high risk of getting lung cancer.

Resources for the Public

If you smoke, quitting can greatly lower your risk of getting disease, including cancer. Quitting smoking also lowers your risk of dying early.

Quitting can be hard, but it is possible, and you are more likely to quit if you get help. You can contact the following services directly for support:

  • Telehealth Ontario: 1-866-797-0000
  • Smokers’ Helpline: SmokersHelpline.ca

Find more resources to help you quit smoking: