CT Lung Cancer Screening Program

CT lung cancer screening uses radiology tools to detect the earliest signs of lung cancer in at-risk patients, when the disease is potentially more treatable and curable.

Program Highlights

  • CT lung cancer screening was shown by the National Lung Screening Trial to reduce lung cancer deaths up to 20%
  • Early detection via CT may benefit smokers ages 55–80, or those who quit within the last 15 years
  • Offers the earliest detection which allows more treatment options
  • Proven to reduce lung cancer deaths in at-risk groups
  • Low-dose protocols greatly reduce radiation exposure
  • UCSF is a pioneer in the field
  • Quick and painless procedure

What is the procedure like?

  • The CT lung cancer screening process is a completely painless procedure. 
  • You will start by checking in with the front desk and will be asked to fill out standard paperwork.  
  • A technologist will then take you to a dressing room/waiting area in the back.  If your clothing contains metal, you may be asked to wear a gown.  
  • The tech will then take you to the CT scanner, where they will position you with arms overhead. The table will slowly move in and out of the scanner opening as it takes images. During this process, the machine will alert you to either hold your breath for a 4-8 second period or breathe normally.  This is a short procedure. 

How do I prepare for a CT scan for lung cancer? 

Visit how to prepare for a CT scan.

How do I follow up on my scan? 

Please contact your ordering physician. 

Optimal Candidates

  • 55 - 80 years of age (Note: Certain insurance plans don't cover lung cancer CT screening for this full age range; please check with your insurance provider to verify coverage.)
  • Greater or equal to 30 pack/year smoking history
  • Current or former smoker who has quit within the last 15 years
  • No clinical signs/symptoms of lung cancer (e.g., hemoptysis)

Ordering Instructions for Referrals

Criteria for inclusion include all of the below, which must be documented in the patient’s chart:

  • 55-80 years old (with variation based on insurance coverage)
  • > or equal to 30 pack/year smoking history
  • Current or former smoker who has quit within the last 15 years
  • No clinical signs/symptoms of lung cancer (e.g., hemoptysis)


In addition, the chart must also include:

  • Documentation of shared decision-making at which time the risks and benefits of screening are discussed with the patient.
  • Documentation that smoking cessation resources were offered to the patient.

*For non-UCSF physicians, the process begins with faxing a referral to Central Scheduling 415-353-7299. For additional questions, please contact [email protected] or call Karen Brandon at 415-502-3066.


For patients who self-refer, the process begins by contacting UCSF Radiology Specialty Programs Coordinator, Karen Brandon by either calling her at 415-502-3066 or by emailing her at [email protected].

Billing and Insurance

Our Billing and Insurance team is looking forward to answering your questions. Please contact them at 415-514-8888.

Our Commitment

  • Easy access and scheduling
  • Use of newest and safest technologies
  • Expedited results
  • All studies read by world-renowned UCSF specialists
  • Top-quality, compassionate care
  • Patients are treated by a collaborative team of experts from across several specialties

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Our Radiologists

UCSF’s Radiology physician team is world-renowned, with support by leading physician’s assistants, nurses and technologists.

Chief of Cardiac & Pulmonary Imaging
Professor Clinical Radiology