Healthy, high-risk adults between the ages of 55 and 80 should get annual lung cancer screenings, recommends an independent panel of medical experts. This decision, based in part on evidence from a recent National Lung Screening Trial, could affect millions.
The American College of Chest Physicians defines high-risk adults as those who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or quit smoking within the past 15 years. A pack-year is based on smoking 20 cigarettes (one pack) a day for one year, or any equivalent. For example, smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years would be considered a 30 pack-year smoking history.
Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in both men and women in the United States, claiming more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. When lung cancer is detected early—while the disease is still localized within the lungs—the five-year survival rate is 53 percent, reports the American Lung Association.
The recommended screening, which involves low-dose CT scans, may help detect small cancers that X-rays cannot. This could potentially prevent as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year, says Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, to NBC News.
Screenings should combined with a counseling, smoking cessation and treatment program, says the task force. Also, those with significant health issues, or those who can’t or won’t have curative lung surgery, should not be screened.
The National Cancer Institute states that the best way to avoid lung cancer is to avoid smoking; and it’s never too late to quit. The American Cancer Society reports that as early as two weeks after quitting smoking, your lung function improves. Read about the Tobacco Cessation Program at our hospital near Phoenix.