Screening for Lung Cancer

Comprehensive Cancer Centers was pleased to learn that new guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently released should ensure that more Americans will now qualify for annual scans that detect lung cancer. An important new part of these guidelines is that they’re designed to help more African Americans and women who smoke can get screened.

The news, paired with April being National Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, puts a focus on the benefits of early diagnoses for lung cancers that can only happen with more accessible testing for smokers.

Who’s Now Eligible for Lung Screenings?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s new guidelines state that anyone between the ages 50 and 80, who has smoked at least 20 “pack-years” and either still smokes or quit within the last 15 years, should be screened. A pack-year means smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for a year or an equivalent amount.  Someone could qualify by going through a pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years. Please note, it is important to refer to your health plan to ensure the new recommendation for low-dose CT lung cancer screening is covered by your insurance.

Since 2013, the scans have been recommended for heavier smokers that smoke approximately 30 pack-years, as well as those a little older, starting at age 55. The task force updated the guidelines, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, after newer research showed lighter, younger smokers will also benefit from screenings.

The task force recommendation means insurers must offer the screening without a copay to people who meet the criteria. The changes to guidelines mean nearly 15 million people are estimated to meet the new criteria, nearly twice that of the prior number eligible for screenings.

An important part of the screening increases will come in form of more women and African Americans getting tested. African Americans and women tend to be not as heavy of a smoker and may not have met the earlier screening threshold despite being at risk for lung cancer.

The Dangers of Smoking Tobacco

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States, and it is estimated that 480,000 deaths annually are attributed to cigarette smoking, including secondhand smoke exposure. Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of numerous adverse pregnancy outcomes and complications in babies, which includes sudden infant death syndrome and impaired lung function in childhood.

In 2019, an estimated 50.6 million US adults used tobacco. Further, 14.0% of the US adult population currently smoked cigarettes and 4.5% of the adult population used electronic cigarettes. Among pregnant US women who gave birth in 2016, 7.2% reported smoking cigarettes while pregnant.

What Else Should Be Known About Lung Cancer Screenings?

One recent study found just 14% of people eligible for lung cancer screening under the prior guidelines had received it. In contrast, 60% to 80% of people eligible for breast, colon or cervical cancer screening get checked.

Unfortunately, lung cancer is often diagnosed too late for a good chance at survival. But when those who are at especially high risk get an annual low-dose CT lung cancer screening, offered by Comprehensive Cancer Centers, those odds can be greatly improved.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) for high-risk smokers including those who may have smoked and later quit. Comprehensive Cancer Centers and its lung division, Lung Center of Nevada, offers evaluations for lung cancer screenings as well as low-dose CT scans for those who are at risk.  Share your smoking history with your doctor to confirm what test you may need.

While the lower of age and pack-year requirements may not immediately lead to more, earlier diagnoses, the team at Comprehensive Cancer is optimistic that with increased awareness, from events like National Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, changes for the better are possible. With that, the practice encourages anyone who knows people who smoke, and would be now able to get screened, to do so.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers provide a variety of treatment options for patients with lung cancer.  To schedule an appointment with Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.

The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.