HOUSTON – Each year, more people in the United States die from lung cancer than from colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
And thanks to new treatments, if lung cancer is found at an earlier stage, it’s more likely to be treated successfully.
But historically, the guidelines to get screened have been narrowly focused on cigarette smokers.
“And we know that there are other factors that contribute to the risk of lung cancer,” said Dr. Robert Smith American Cancer Society senior vice president of Early Cancer Detection and Science.
So now, the new guidelines, issued by the American Cancer Society, state that people between ages 50-80 with a 20-pack-year history or more qualify for getting a yearly low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer.
A pack-year-history could look like any of these scenarios, including smoking a pack a day for 20 years -- no matter how long ago that was:
- One pack a day for 20 years
- Two packs a day for 10 years
- One and a half packs a day for a little longer than 13 years
- three packs a day for a little longer than 6 ½ years
“Increasing the number of those eligible by about 5 million,” said Dr. William Dahut, American Cancer Society chief scientific officer. “With our current guideline now, we estimated that there would be an additional 21% more lung cancer deaths prevented and about 19% or life years gained compared with the current recommendations.”
But just because these are the guidelines -- doesn’t mean your screening would be covered by insurance. So, speak with you primary care provider to determine if you can and should get screened.
“A lot of times people don’t consider themselves a smoker because they haven’t smoked in 10, 15 or 20 years,” Dahut said. “But the fact that it’s really important that word gets out that if you had a significant smoking history, a 20-year history, which which would be, you know, two packs a day for 10 years, for example, and you quit when you 28 years old and now you’re you know, you’re 55. You definitely should be screened. So advocate for yourself. Talk to your primary care doctor and be aware of opportunities in your health systems.”