Did you know that nearly 8,000 Veterans are diagnosed and treated with lung cancer every year at VA? Or that over 900,000 Veterans may be eligible for lung cancer screening?

That’s why lung cancer awareness is so important at VA – ensuring Veterans, their families and caregivers are aware of lung cancer symptoms

Screening opportunities and treatment options are priorities for VA’s National Oncology Program.


Lung cancer may not cause symptoms until it spreads to other parts of the body, making it more difficult to treat. However, it is still good for Veterans and caregivers to know what types of signs to look for. Symptoms may include:

  • Chronic, hacking, raspy coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Respiratory infections that keep coming back, including bronchitis or pneumonia, or even wheezing
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse or chest pain
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Pain and weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you’re experiencing concerning symptoms, don’t delay in seeking care from your local VA provider.


While lung cancer is the deadliest cancer among Veterans, screening can save lives. Screenings can catch cancer in an earlier stage before you notice symptoms, improving the chance treatment will be successful. You may qualify for a screening if you meet the following three conditions:

  • Are 50-80 years old
  • Smoke cigarettes now or quit within the past 15 years
  • Smoked cigarettes for at least 20 pack-years

A “pack-year” estimates how many cigarettes you have smoked in your lifetime. 20 “pack-years” equals smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years or two packs of cigarettes a day for 10 years.

If you and your provider decide screening is right for you, VA provides an annual low dose computed tomography (CT) scan. A low dose CT scan requires lying down on a table where an x-ray machine takes detailed images of your lungs using minimal radiation. The scan only takes a few minutes, and it might just save your life.

Cancer screening during COVID-19

While COVID-19 remains a concern, VA is taking precautions at all VA medical centers to protect you from the virus.

VA also encourages Veterans to get their vaccine as soon as possible. It’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against COVID-19. Learn more about how to get the COVID-19 vaccine through your local VAMC.

To learn more about cancer care at VA, visit cancer.va.gov or email cancer@va.gov.

By Courtney Franchio is a program manager with VA's National Oncology Program

Share this story

Published on Nov. 26, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.1 min.

Views to date: 457

One Comment

  1. Debra s Thomas November 26, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    Can caregivers get screened at the VA for lung cancer

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Innovation revolutionary: Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. Priya Joshi works to develop a more equitable process in treating and identifying Veterans with kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes.

  • Houston VA has performed more than 160 head and neck free flap reconstructive surgeries since the program was developed in 2017.

  • Chronic pain interferes with women Veterans’ daily lives. Talk to your VA provider about an individualized pain management plan.