Should I be screened for lung cancer?
Exciting news and breakthrough! In March of 2021, the USPSTF changed its guidelines and now recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
Our collective early detection work around the country is paying off!
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Lung cancer is frequently diagnosed after it has spread. 70% of lung cancer diagnoses in the U.S. happen in stage 3 or 4.
The goal of lung cancer screening is to enable the detection of lung cancer before it has spread. If the disease is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving 5 years improves from 20 percent to 55 percent or higher.
The Minnesota Lung Cancer Screening Task Force is a group of thought leaders/healthcare professionals representing most of the healthcare organizations in the state. We meet annually to identify strategies to improve screening numbers. The next meeting will be held physically with a virtual option on Friday, December 3rd. If you are a physician or healthcare provider that wishes to help improve and increase lung cancer screening in Minnesota, Email us.
A recently released study, The Nelson Lung Cancer Screening Study (2018) showed that annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography in high-risk patients reduced lung cancer deaths by 26 percent in men and up to 61 percent in women (up to a 44 percent reduction overall if male and female cohorts were evenly split). Given that the American Cancer Society predicts 160,000 lung cancer deaths in the US in 2018, widespread screening could save up to 65,000 American lives each year.
A Breath of Hope is working diligently to expand lung cancer screening criteria so that more people will be eligible. In the meantime, please educate yourself if you are ineligible for screening. Understanding what symptoms look like could lead to earlier detection and better odds of beating lung cancer.
How do I know if I should be screened?
- Are you between 50-80 years old?
- Do you have a 20 pack-year smoking history (i.e. 1 pack/daily for 30 years, 2 packs/daily for 15 years)?
- Do you currently smoke or did you quit within the past 15 years?
If you answered “yes” to all three questions and are not experiencing lung cancer symptoms, you are eligible for preventative screening. Please talk to your doctor.
A Breath of Hope Partners that provide preventative lung screening with doctor referrals:
It is our aim to be a resource for all lung cancer patients and their family members. If your hospital or facility offers low-dose CT scans, with or without doctor referrals, please contact us.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Who should get screened?
A. Currently, screening is recommended for individuals at high risk for lung cancer. High risk is defined as:
- Between 50 and 80 years old
- Currently smoke or quit within the past 15 years
- Having a 20 pack-year history (1 pack a day for 20 years)
If you don’t meet the above criteria, but are having symptoms of lung cancer, you should consult with your healthcare professional about being tested.
Q. How is lung cancer screening done?
A. Lung cancer screening is done with a low-dose CT scan. A low dose CT (computed tomography) scan is an x-ray that scans the lungs and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs.
Q. Where do I go to get screened?
A. Start by talking to your healthcare provider. He/she can order the scan for you and recommend a local facility.
Q. Is screening dangerous? What are the risks?
A. All radiation involves some risk. You should discuss the risks with your healthcare professional. However, a new study published March 10, 2020 in the journal Radiology, reports, “Low-dose chest CT scans don’t appear to damage human DNA.”
Q. Will my insurance cover screening?
A. Medicare will cover the costs of screening for those ages 55-77 who fit the eligibility criteria. The transition to providing coverage for people 50-55 is under way. Please consult with your insurance provider to find out if screening is covered as part of your plan.
Q. How often should I get screened?
A. Lung cancer screening is recommended annually for those at high risk.
Q. What causes lung cancer?
A. The primary cause of lung cancer is smoking, but you don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer. Lung cancer can be caused by environmental factors like radon, pollution, secondhand smoke and industrial chemicals.
Q. What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
A. Typical symptoms of lung cancer include persistent cough, coughing up blood or phlegm, chest pain, hoarseness, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, shortness of breath, wheezing, ongoing bronchitis or pneumonia.
Q. Where can I learn more about lung cancer?
A. A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation is proud to present, the first-of-its-kind Animated Patient’s Guide to Lung Cancer.