The leading cause of cancer death among both men and women continues to be lung cancer. Lung cancer mortality is so high because it is usually not discovered early enough for treatment to be effective. Screening and early identification saves lives. It has become a recommended preventive practice and covered service for people at risk for lung cancer.
Most lung cancer is caused by smoking cigarettes. Tobacco smoke contains more than 70 carcinogens, and lungs are particularly sensitive to toxins. There is a ‘dose-response’ to smoking and cancer, so that the risk for cancer increases the more a person has smoked. Conversely, quitting smoking is the single best way to reduce cancer risk, and the sooner the better.
Who should get screened for lung cancer? People who are between the ages of 55 and 80, currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, and have a ’30-pack year’ history; for example smoking 1 pack per day for 30 years, or 15 cigarettes per day for 45 years. Most health insurance plans, including Medicare, cover the screening for those at risk.
The scan is done using a ‘low-density computerized tomography’ (LDCT). The large majority of screens are negative, or have ‘incidental’ findings which are clinically insignificant. Annual screens are usually recommended for five years in order to confirm and obtain the full benefit from screening. For more information check out the Lung Cancer Screening and Smoking page.
Any community members care to share their experience with screening?