Ontario has a new lung cancer screening program

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Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers and it is the leading cause of cancer death in Ontario. In 2020, it was expected that 10,592 people would be diagnosed with lung cancer in Ontario and that 7,124 people would die from lung cancer.¹

The reason that so many people die from lung cancer is that by the time it is usually diagnosed, the cancer has spread to other parts of the body or is too big. When the cancer has spread or is too big, treatment has less of a chance of working.

The good news is that Ontario now has an effective and evidence-based way to check, or screen, people who are at high risk of getting lung cancer. According to Dr. Lisa Del Giudice, Regional Primary Care Lead – Cancer Screening, Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program, this means that some lung cancers can be found early, when treatment has a better chance of working.

The new Ontario Lung Screening Program (OLSP) is an organized lung cancer screening program that is currently available at four hospitals in Ontario.

Who can qualify for lung cancer screening?

People may qualify to get screened for lung cancer if they:

  • Are 55 to 74 years old, and
  • Have smoked cigarettes every day for at least 20 years in total (it does not have to be 20 years in a row, which means there could be times when someone did not smoke).

To find out if you qualify for lung cancer screening, Dr. Del Giudice recommends speaking with your health-care provider or contacting an OLSP site hospital. To find a hospital that offers lung cancer screening through the OLSP, call 1-866-662-9233 or visit the OLSP website for a list of locations.

If you qualify for lung cancer screening and you do not have a health-care provider, the hospital will help find you one so that you can get screened.

What is the screening test for lung cancer?

People who qualify to get screened will be offered a special type of computed tomography (CT) scan that uses a small amount of radiation. This test is called a “low-dose CT scan.” Getting screened with a low-dose CT scan is the best way to find lung cancer early when it may be easier to treat.

Lung cancer screening is not for everyone. Dr. Del Giudice says that “people who are not at high risk of getting lung cancer should not get screened because there may be more risks than benefits for them.”

For more information about lung cancer screening, please visit Cancer Care Ontario. If you think you have any signs or symptoms of lung cancer, speak with your health-care provider.

There are several things you can do to lower your risk of lung cancer:

Learn more about your lung cancer risk and how to reduce your risk at My CancerIQ.

Blog Authors:

Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program, Cancer Screening

Dr. Lisa Del Giudice, Regional Primary Care Lead – Cancer Screening, Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program Family Physician, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre Academic Family Health Team

¹Cancer Care Ontario [Internet]. Toronto (ON): Lung Cancer. Available from: 

About the author

Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program

Sunnybrook's Odette Cancer Centre is a co-leading Regional Cancer Centre of the Toronto Central Regional Cancer Program, which oversees the delivery and quality of cancer services for the more than one million residents of Central Toronto.