BC Cancer Lung Screening Program—first of its kind in Canada

BC Cancer has launched the Lung Screening Program, the first organized provincewide lung-screening program for high-risk individuals in the country. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and worldwide. In BC, seven people die of lung cancer every day. With 70% of all cases currently diagnosed at an advanced stage, the Lung Screening Program aims to detect lung cancer at an earlier stage, when treatment is more effective.

Lung screening involves a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scan of the lungs. A network of lung-screening sites has been established across BC within each health authority using existing CT equipment within hospitals. The scan takes less than 10 seconds and is not painful. Patients do not need to take any medications or receive any needles for this test. After a patient’s LDCT scan, a radiologist with expertise in early diagnosis will review the images taken at a designated reading site located within the patient’s health authority. A computer-assisted diagnostic tool and standardized reporting format will be used to improve consistency and accuracy of reading and recommendation. Results of the patient’s lung scan will be sent to the patient and their primary care provider.

Who is eligible for lung screening?

Lung screening is best for those who are at high risk for lung cancer and who are not experiencing any symptoms. This includes people who:

  • Are 55 to 74 years of age. 
  • Currently smoke or have previously smoked. 
  • Have a smoking history of 20 years or more.

Interested individuals can self-refer directly to the screening program. Primary care providers can encourage eligible patients to call the Lung Screening Program (1 877 717-5864) to complete a risk assessment over the phone to confirm their screening eligibility. A fax referral option is also available (referral form accessible through the Health Professionals link below).

Role of primary care providers

Primary care providers play an important role in the Lung Screening Program, including:

  • Supporting patients with their decision making, and recommending lung screening when appropriate.
  • Providing smoking cessation pharmacotherapy support.
  • Providing follow-up for additional findings and support for abnormal results.

To learn more about the Lung Screening Program and to access helpful program resources, visit the Health Professionals page on BC Cancer’s website: www.screeningbc.ca/health-professionals.  
—Sandy Zhang, MPH
Promotion Specialist, Prevention, Screening, Hereditary Cancer Program, BC Cancer

This post has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.

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