Lung Cancer ScreeningEarly detection saves lives!
Early detection saves lives. It’s a fact. We know it works for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. And now we finally have scientific evidence proving that lung cancer screening saves lives, too. But who should be screened? And where can they go to be screened? Is screening covered by insurance? What are the risks?
Answers to these and other questions can be found here.
Low dose CT screening for people in the high risk category has been proven to dramatically reduce lung cancer mortality. Age and smoking history are the two main factors used to determine if someone is at high risk for lung cancer and possibly a good candidate for screening.
The National Lung Screening Trial defined those at high risk for lung cancer as men and women between the ages of 55-80 with a history of heavy smoking.
Heavy smoking is defined as a 30-pack-year smoking history. For example, someone who smoked two packs a day for 15 years has a 30-pack-year smoking history. Likewise, someone who smoked a pack a day for 30 years or someone who smoked three packs a day for 10 years, have a 30-pack-year smoking history.
Perhaps surprising to many is that former smokers, even those who quit 15 years ago, are also defined as being at high risk for lung cancer. In fact, half of the people diagnosed with lung cancer—more than 113,000 Americans each year—are former smokers. And the majority of these people quit more than a decade before their diagnosis. For former smokers, the added requirement is that they quit within the previous 15 years. For example, someone who met the other guidelines but quit 30 years ago would not necessarily qualify as a good screening candidate. Someone who quit 12 years and met the age and smoking qualifications may very well benefit from screening.
The age requirement and smoking history are lowered for those with a second risk factor. If you have an additional qualifying risk factor, talk to your doctor to see if you are a good candidate for lung cancer screening.
The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial
The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It looked at using a low-dose CT scan (also called low-dose spiral CT or helical CT scan) to screen for lung cancer. Over 53,000 current and former heavy smokers aged 55 to 74 participated at 33 sites across the United States. Starting in August 2002, subjects remained in the trial for a 20-month period and were randomly assigned to receive three annual screens with either a low-dose CT scan or a standard chest X-ray.
The study found that people who were screened with a low-dose CT scan had a 20% lower chance of dying of lung cancer than those who were screened with a chest X-ray.
If you are not considered at risk, chances are you know someone who is. Consider how you can reach out to a friend, neighbor or family member by sharing lung cancer screening information with them.
WHAT’S YOUR RISK?
- Between the ages of 55 and 80
- Smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years
- Still smoking or stopped within 15 years
INTERMEDIATE RISK If you answered yes to two of the above, plus one or more of the following:
- Exposure to radon
- Exposure to asbestos or other carcinogens’s such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, silica, coal smoke, or diesel fumes
- Family history of lung cancer
- Personal history of other cancers or lung diseases
Talk to your doctor to see if screening may be appropriate for you!
- ShouldIscreen.com (interactive tool to help access if you should be screened)
- Created by University of Michigan using the risk prediction model developed by Tammemägi et al. (2013). Selection criteria for lung-cancer screening. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(8): 728-736, 2013.
- National Cancer Institute Lung Cancer Screening
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines https://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/patient/lung-screening-pdq
You should be screened at an accredited facility.
Information has been gathered from the following resources:
*Lung Cancer Alliance
+ American College of Radiology