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Lung Program

A Simple Screening Can Change Your Life

Lung Cancer Facts

Each year, more Americans die from lung cancer than from breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. Approximately one out of every four cancer deaths in the United States is from lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. But there is hope – and we can help.

Lung cancer is often curable if caught at an early stage. But most people with the disease do not experience symptoms until it has advanced, when treatment is less successful.

Salinas Valley Health recognizes the importance of lung cancer screenings as an effective way to catch the disease at its earliest, most treatable stage. Using low-dose computerized tomography (CT), our radiologists and physicians can detect suspicious lung nodules and develop an individualized plan of care delivered by a multidisciplinary team that includes radiologists, pulmonologists, pathologists, thoracic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, and a nurse navigator.

Think of a lung cancer screening like the physical, mammogram or colonoscopy you probably already get to protect your health. These screenings require very little time and cause no discomfort.

Quit Today and Reduce Your Risk

Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and screening for the disease does not replace the health benefits of quitting. Your body will begin recovering within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure to healthier levels. And living a smoke-free life increases lung function and decreases the risks for heart disease and other cancers – like those of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder and cervix.

Ready to Quit?
For information about smoking cessation classes at Salinas Valley Health Medical Center, call 831-759-1890. Call the California Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-NO-BUTTS, or visit or for more quitting resources and information.

Should You Get Screened?
If you meet all the criteria in either high-risk category described below, you should ask your physician for a lung cancer screening order:

Category 1

  • 55–80 years of age
  • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • Smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (packs per day × number of years)
  • Current smoker/quit in the last 15 years
  • Able/willing to undergo treatment, if recommended

Category 2

  • 50 years of age or older
  • Smoking history of at least 20 pack-years (packs per day × number of years)
  • One additional risk factor for lung cancer (such as radon exposure, family history, existing lung disease and/or a personal history of cancer)

Once the order is received, the lung program coordinator will contact you to schedule the test. These screenings are covered by most commercial insurance carriers, and Salinas Valley Health will offer a cash discount if the test is not covered under your plan. For more information, call the Salinas Valley Health Lung Cancer Screening Program at 831-759-3029 or email

What Can You Expect During the Screening?

During the test, you will lie on a table and be required to hold your breath for a few seconds while remaining still as the low-dose computerized tomography (CT) scanner captures images of your chest from various angles. No IV is necessary as no contrast is used.

Is It Effective and Safe?

The National Lung Screening Trial, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, showed a 20% decrease in lung cancer-related deaths for high-risk individuals who underwent screening. A low-dose CT scan will expose you to radiation, although much less than a standard CT scan. False positives can occur, and a screening could result in the detection and treatment of lung cancer that may have never grown or spread.

What If Cancer Is Detected?

If any abnormalities are detected, a nurse navigator will collaborate with your physician and they can help guide you through your next steps, including additional testing and possibly treatment. Our Susan Bacon Cancer Resource Center also offers patients and family members information about cancer diagnosis, treatment and risk reduction, as well as emotional support.