New screening program will use CT scans to detect early-stage lung cancer

September 28, 2022

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services (AHS) has launched the Alberta Lung Cancer Screening Program (ALCSP), a new two-year pilot project that will offer lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to approximately 3,000 eligible Albertans.

Lung cancer screening is for individuals who are at a high risk for lung cancer. Albertans may be eligible for screening if they are between the ages of 50 and 74, smoke cigarettes, or quit after smoking for many years, and are a patient within one of three Primary Care Networks (PCN) – the Mosaic PCN (Calgary), the Edmonton O-day’min PCN, and the Grande Prairie PCN. These locations were chosen for this initial pilot based on high smoking rates and population demographics. Eligible patients can be referred to the program by a primary care provider from one of these three participating PCNs.

“This is another big step forward for cancer care in Alberta, keeping us among the leaders in Canada in this new approach using CT scans to detect lung cancer earlier and treat it sooner, and ultimately save lives,” says Jason Copping, Minister of Health. “ It’s also a great example of integration between specialty care and PCNs, a direction we need to pursue as we work to strengthen primary care across the province. I’m so grateful to everyone working in cancer screening and care in this province, providing high-quality, compassionate care to patients and pursuing innovative initiatives like this.”

One in 13 Albertans will develop lung cancer in their lifetime, and more than 1,500 will die each year as a result. However, for high-risk Albertans with no symptoms, getting screened regularly can lower the risk of dying from lung cancer by almost 25 per cent. Although smoking is not the only risk factor – radon gas, asbestos, and outdoor air pollution are also risks – cigarette smoking is the cause of 8 out of 10 cases of lung cancer.

“Screening with low-dose CT scans can detect lung cancer earlier, before someone has symptoms, and when treatment is more likely to be effective,” says Dr. Alain Tremblay, Medical Lead for the ALCSP. “Without screening, most lung cancers are diagnosed at later stages, when treatment is less effective, as the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.”

This pilot project is funded through AHS and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC). CPAC has made an initial investment of $5.0 million to accelerate planning and implementation in jurisdictions across Canada.

“CPAC congratulates Alberta Health Services for taking action to expand lung cancer screening and promote smoking cessation services. Screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer will help find lung cancer early and save lives. Designing these programs to meet the needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis and equity deserving communities who may be disproportionately impacted by lung cancer is also an important step forward.” said Dr. Craig Earle, CEO of CPAC. “Lung cancer screening is a priority initiative in the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control and CPAC will continue to work with partners like Alberta Health Services to ensure equitable access, experience and outcomes.”

CPAC is working with all provinces to implement organized lung cancer screening for people at high risk. Ontario and British Columbia were the first to launch programs and Quebec has launched a similar pilot project.

“In addition to this great partnership, AHS is also here to support all Albertans in reducing or quitting smoking – it is one of the best things an individual can do for their health and to reduce their risk of lung cancer,” says Dr. Laura McDougall, Senior Medical Officer of Health, AHS.

Albertans who need help to quit smoking can talk to their primary care provider about options to reduce or quit smoking.

If you want to quit, here are some options:

Visit for more information on lung cancer screening in Alberta.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.