What Could be Found on my CT Scan?
The main purpose of the CT scan is to identify lung cancer at a stage when it can be cured. Small and early lung cancers can often be removed completely by operation or treated with radiotherapy. Most lung cancers grow slowly enough that they can be found at an early stage by a low dose CT scan; people found to have lung cancer through regular scanning are nearly 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with an early stage lung cancer than those not scanned. This is why those at an increased risk of developing lung cancer are being offered a CT scan.
Your CT scan could be normal. This means that nothing that is going to have a significant impact on your health has been found at this time. The majority of people (around 3 in every 4) will have a normal result. If your CT scan is normal, you will be invited back for a second scan in 24 months’ time. This is so we can monitor your lungs and pick up any changes at an early stage, but things could change in between scans and you should be aware of any changes in your health and seek advice from your GP if you notice anything. More information about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer can be found in Cancer Research UK’s leaflet here..
The scan could also find other lung conditions that you might have. There is also a very small chance that we could find something that’s not in your lungs but is in another part of your body close to your lungs. This is very unlikely as the scan looks mainly at your lungs, but it is possible, and if we do find something which needs further tests, we will be in touch with you and your GP.
If something is found on your CT scan, the findings will guide our next steps. You could be invited for a follow-up scan in around 3 or 12 months so that we can keep a closer eye on your lungs, or you may be referred to the hospital for further investigations.
For every 100 people having a scan, around 17, will be offered a 3 or 12 month follow-up scan, and around 8 will go to hospital for further tests. If you’re referred to hospital, it doesn’t mean you have cancer, it just means that we need to do further tests to find out exactly what we’ve found so that we can offer the most appropriate treatment to you. Of the 8 out of every 100 people referred to hospital, only 4 will be found to have a lung cancer and most of these will be at an early stage and be cured.
Lung health checks can very occasionally pick up on abnormalities which look like a lung cancer but aren’t. This could mean that you need further tests, which have risks, and it can also cause anxiety.
Occasionally a lung cancer will be missed on CT. It is very uncommon, but it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and speak to your GP if you’re worried.
CTs can also rarely find lung cancers which would never have caused a person harm, and as a result, some people will require tests and receive treatment which would otherwise have not been needed.
We follow strict rules to ensure that any risks from the CT scan and findings are reduced as much as possible, and if anything is found on your scan, you will have access to experienced clinicians who can talk to you about the tests and your worries.