In the United States, lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer that affects both men and women (following skin cancer). Unfortunately, lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among American adults. More people in the U.S. die of lung cancer than of any other cancer.
With these alarming statistics, you might think that regular lung cancer screenings would be recommended for all adults past a certain age, much like routine colorectal cancer screenings and annual skin cancer screenings.
Anyone can get lung cancer, but one key risk factor — smoking — makes the diagnosis far more likely. A smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer is 20 times greater than that of a nonsmoker, and experts estimate that smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer cases.
While it may not be recommended for everyone, there are several reasons to schedule a lung cancer screening at Fivestar Pulmonary Associates in Allen and McKinney, Texas. Here, our seasoned pulmonology team explores the current guidelines and recommendations.
Lung cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it has spread and become more difficult to treat. Lung cancer screenings — or testing that looks for the disease in people who don’t have symptoms — aim to find lung cancer in its early, most treatable stage in otherwise healthy people who have a high risk of developing lung cancer.
Lung cancer screening uses a low-dose computerized tomography scan, or LDCT scan, to spot abnormal areas in your lungs that may be cancerous. For people with an elevated lung cancer risk, getting annual LDCT scans increases the chance of finding lung cancer early — and reduces the risk of dying from the disease.
Research shows that among high-risk individuals, yearly LDCT scans save more lives than regular chest X-rays.
Lung cancer screening is recommended for certain people who smoke or used to smoke, but don’t have any symptoms of the disease. People with symptoms that may be attributable to lung cancer should still come see us right away, but the tests we use to diagnose lung cancer aren’t the same as the test we use to screen for lung cancer.
If any of the following applies to you, consider scheduling a lung cancer screening:
If you’re a current or former smoker aged 50 and older, you may benefit from a lung cancer screening if you don’t have any symptoms of the disease. In addition to smoking, increasing age is a risk factor for lung cancer — the median age of diagnosis is 70 years old.
Lung cancer screening is recommended for anyone who has a history of smoking for “20 pack-years” or longer. Your “pack-year” number is determined by multiplying the number of packs of cigarettes you smoked per day by the number of years you smoked.
For example, having 20 pack-years of smoking history may mean you smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years, 2 packs a day for 10 years, or half a pack a day for 40 years.
If you quit smoking any time in the last 15 years but smoked heavily for many years before quitting, you may want to consider a lung cancer screening.
You may want to consider a lung cancer screening if you’ve already had lung cancer, but your treatment was over five years ago.
You may benefit from lung cancer screening if you have other risk factors for the disease apart from smoking. Significant lung cancer risk factors include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), family history of the disease, and exposure to asbestos (usually at work).
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends an annual lung cancer screening with an LDCT scan for people who:
The Task Force further recommends that lung cancer screenings should discontinue at the age of 81, once someone hasn’t smoked for longer than 15 years, or if an emerging health problem makes treatment difficult or impossible.
If you have questions about lung cancer screening guidelines, our experts at Fivestar Pulmonary Associates can help. Schedule a visit today by calling our location most convenient to you or requesting an appointment online.