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Who should consider annual screening for the deadliest cancer in America?



Diagnostic screening for people considered at risk for lung cancer can save lives, but very few are done.

Diagnostic screening for people considered at risk for lung cancer can save lives, but very few are done.

Lung cancer is the most dangerous cancer in America, killing more people each year than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.

“We know we don’t have enough patients screened at this time. We’re reaching, in most states, probably 4% of eligible patients; some states 10% or 12%, ”said Dr. Debra S. Dyer, American University of Radiology, or ACR.

Dyer believes that a challenge has involved a formula for evaluating those who need testing, spurring annual screening with a low-dose CT lung scan.

screening ct
This is a picture of a low-dose CT lung scan. (American College of Radiology allowed)

“Eligibility requirements are not as easy as for mammograms or colon cancer screening. It’s based on gender or age, ”she said.

“To be screened for lung cancer, right now, you must be a smoker, and you must have a minimum history and be at least 55 years old.”

That part of the smoking history can be complicated.

Heavy smoking means a smoking history of 30 years or more. The package-year parser involves a formula. A person can have a 30-year history of smoking on average one pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years. No screening is recommended for people who have quit smoking for 15 years or more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people should screen for:

  • Have a history of smoking a lot.
  • Smoke now or quit within the past 15 years.
  • From 55 to 80 years old.

“The low-dose CT machine we use today, with cutting-edge scanners, we can see fine details in the lungs and we can find very early-stage cancers,” Dyer said. This small.

And that can save lives.

For those who meet the criteria, commercial coverage includes lung cancer screening as a preventive service.

The American Lung Association notes that DC, Virginia, and Maryland are among the 38 Medicaid fee-for-service programs that include low-dose CT lung cancer screening as of September 2020.

In addition, people at risk between age 55 and 77 are eligible to be screened under Medicare.

If you are considering lung cancer screening, you can consult this decision support from Health Care Quality and Research to help you prepare to speak with your doctor.

The ACR website can help you find accredited facilities nearby for screening. In the “Indications” drop-down menu, select “Lung Cancer Screening Center”. There are two in DC and another one across Virginia and Maryland.

According to the CDC, the best way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to not smoke and avoid breathing in secondhand smoke.

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