Lung Cancer Screening & Smoking

I got screened for lung cancer. Now what?

You will receive a letter in the mail within about a week following your CT screening. The results may also be posted on your electronic medical record system depending on your doctor/hospital's protocol. More than half of the people having a screening CT scan will have pulmonary nodules. These tiny nodules are caused by inflammation in the lung and nearly all of them are benign.

What will my results say?

Your results will say whether your scan was "negative" or "normal," or "abnormal" meaning the scan found nodules in your lungs.

Negative or normal results

"Negative" or normal results are the most common. If your results are "negative," you will be told to schedule your next screen scan in 1 year. The next scan can be compared to the first scan to look for anything new that develops. It is important that you keep getting CT screens every year or more often, unless your doctor advises otherwise.

Screening works because it helps you find lung cancer in the early stages, when it can be treated most effectively. If you stop screening, you lose the ability to tell what is happening. Read more about what you can do to lower your risk of developing lung cancer if you have a normal screen.

Positive or abnormal results

Less than 10 out of every 100 screen scans will be “positive” or “abnormal.”

  • About 5 out of every 100 scans will show a slightly larger nodule that will require follow-up in 3 or 6 months. If you are in this category, your letter will be very clear about when you should schedule your next scan.
  • A few scans out of every 100 scans will show a nodule large enough to require some additional testing immediately. The additional testing might involve a PET-CT scan or consideration of a biopsy or surgery.
  • Read more about what you can expect if you have an “abnormal” test result.

Participating in lung screening can be an important step for lung health. You also might be thinking now is the time to make healthy lifestyle changes, including quitting smoking. EX is a great resource for quitting smoking and staying quit.

Why is EX a good resource for me?

The EX Plan combines expertise from the Mayo Clinic with practical advice from ex-smokers. You won’t just quit smoking. You’ll “re-learn life without cigarettes.”

It doesn’t matter if your lung cancer scan leads you to make your first quit attempt or your tenth. EX can help you quit and stay quit. Research shows that the more times people come to the EX site, the more likely they are to quit.

On EX, you can get special information for people who have gotten screened for lung cancer, no matter what your results were.

How do I get started?

To start, go to My EX Plan to set your quit date, and begin your quitting journey. It’s the first step in re-learning life without cigarettes.

Once you’ve set a quit date, visit the different sections of EX to re-learn how to live life as an ex-smoker. This is particularly important for people at higher risk for lung cancer.

  • Re-learn Habit: You know how certain things make you want to smoke? EX shows you how to handle them without reaching for a cigarette.
  • Re-learn Addiction: Nicotine changes your brain, so it’s harder to quit. EX shows you how to fight back and double your chances for success.
  • Re-learn support: The right kind of support can increase your chances of quitting. EX shows you how to get the support that will work for you.

You can use these steps to develop a plan to manage cravings and urges to use tobacco. You can also visit How Nicotine Addiction Works to view videos about each different type of quit-smoking medications and learn how they can help. If you are a heavy smoker, you will want to make sure you are getting the right dosage for any medication. Information on the site, in combination with advice from your doctor, can help you do so.

Would you rather have help come to you? Sign up for our email and text messaging programs that help you stay on track with messages tailored to your quit date.

You can also visit the EX Community to read the stories of thousands of other tobacco users like you. There are even special groups for people who have been smoking for a long time, or smokers with health issues. The community is a great place to get help from other quitters as well as experts. And you can celebrate your successes and milestones as you learn how to live life without tobacco.

The bottom line is that you can stop using tobacco. EX can help.