Radiology

Lung Cancer Screening Program

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, you need doctors you can rely on. Our team at Mount Sinai Health System has more than 25 years of experience researching, detecting, and treating early lung cancers. We have broad experience with a variety of diagnostic tools some of the most advanced treatment centers in the New York City area.

Our Testing

We use a variety of imaging scans to test for lung cancer. We usually start with a computed tomography (CT) scan. If you need additional testing, these are the approaches we use most often:

  • Bronchoscopy involves inserting a thin tube with a miniature camera at the end through your mouth and into your lungs. This allows us to look directly into your lungs for signs of cancer. Sometimes we insert a needle through the tube to extract samples (biopsy) of the lesion or fluid.
  • Endobronchial Ultrasound is a minimally invasive procedure. We usually do this in combination with a bronchoscopy. We use an ultrasound probe to search for abnormal lung tissue. We employ a tiny needle to take a sample of the tissue.
  • Fine Needle Aspiration is a type of biopsy that we perform, guided by a CT scan. We locate the lesion and use a needle to obtain a sample of the cells. A pathologist examines the cells to make a diagnosis.
  • Follow-Up CT Scans are the most common follow-up test. We usually do these one to three months after the first scan. If the follow-up CT shows no growth in a tumor, we will ask you to return a year from the original scan so we can monitor it.
  • Molecular Testing is a highly detailed test of cancerous tissue. We look for various things, including DNA mutations and protein levels. This analysis can detect gene mutations that suggest the cancerous cells are likely to grow. We use this test to develop a targeted treatment if you have a genetic alteration in your tumor.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans take 3D pictures of your entire body. We use a tracer substance that you swallow that emits a small amount of radiation. A PET scan can help us determine if an abnormality on a CT scan is cancerous. It also helps determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. 

Treatments We Offer

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, our team of surgeons, radiation oncologists, oncologists, psychologists, and other professionals will be with you every step of the way. We provide the most advanced surgical and clinical care in a supportive and caring environment.

Current and Former Smokers

Tobacco use is the leading cause of lung cancer, causing about 87 percent of lung cancer cases. And lung cancer is the number one cancer killer for men and women, according to the American Lung Association. Even if you were once a smoker and quit, you have an increased chance of developing lung cancer. The longer you have been smoking, and the more cigarettes you have smoked, the greater your risk is of developing lung cancer. 

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for certain current and former smokers. The recommendation is for people who:

  • Are age 55 to 80
  • Smoked 30 pack-years (the numerical equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years)
  • Are still smoking or quit in the past 15 years
  • Are currently not experiencing any symptoms of lung cancer

Medicare currently reimburses testing for this group but only up to age 77. 

Other organizations, including the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, recommend screening also for people who:

  • Are 50 years of age or older
  • Smoked 20 pack-years (the numerical equivalent of a pack a day for 20 years)
  • Have at least one other risk factor (see below)

Other countries have different eligibility criteria that encourage screening for even more people.

If you have Medicare, you will need to do a shared decision-making counseling session. Your doctor can counsel you or you can speak with a trained nurse practitioner at the screening site. The session outlines the risks and benefits of screening. This information will help you decide whether to be screened. The counseling session will also offer information about smoking cessation.   

When we talk about other risk factors for lung cancer, we mean whether you:

  • Have been exposed to radon, a colorless, odorless radioactive gas emitted by rocks and soil in some areas that can get trapped in houses and buildings
  • Work or have worked with asbestos. This also puts you at risk for mesothelioma (a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and stomach).
  • Work or have worked with another workplace carcinogen, such as arsenic, some forms of silica, or chromium
  • Have had significant exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Have lung scarring from pneumonia
  • Have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has had lung cancer. We are more concerned if your relative contracted lung cancer while young.
  • Are an African American who has a family member diagnosed with lung cancer
  • Are a veterans who did active duty on submarines, in Vietnam or the Gulf War, and was exposed to asbestos, nuclear propulsion, herbicides, battlefield emissions, or other carcinogen 
  • Are a current or past employees of a munitions plant (you may be eligible for free screening under the Department of Energy’s Worker Health Protection Program)
  • Have been exposed regularly to secondhand smoke, such airline or hospitality workers 

Research

We are involved with research about how nonsmokers get lung cancer. As part of the study, we screen for lung cancer among both smokers and nonsmokers over age 40.