The United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) is now recommending annual lung cancer screening for adults between the ages of 55 and 80 who have a 30 pack year* smoking history and who currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.
“This is a great step forward in preventing deaths from lung cancer,” says Dr. Ibrahim Sbeitan, Conemaugh Physician Group – Oncology/ Hematology and Medical Director of the Conemaugh Health System Cancer Care Center. “Lung Cancer remains the number one cancer killer in America. Screening smokers with Low Dose CT technology will help us detect cancers earlier when they are easier to treat.”
Pulmonologist Dr. Christopher Begley agrees, “About 75% of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer have a later stage cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body. Studies show Low dose CT helps find cancer in early stage tumors. The 5 year survivor rate for early stage tumors is 75 to 80%.”
Low dose computed tomography (CT) uses one-eighth of the radiation of a regular CT scan and offers physicians a three dimensional view of the lungs. “According to the National Cancer Institute study, 20% fewer lung cancer deaths were seen among those screened with low-dose CT rather than with a chest x-ray,” says Dr. Stanley Golden, radiologist and Vice Chairman of the Department of Radiology at Conemaugh Memorial. “Low dose CT is a great tool.”
Patients who meet the recommended age and smoking history guidelines should discuss this screening with their primary care physician. A physician referral is needed. Patients should also check with their insurance provider to find out if this screening is covered under their plan.
Dr. Sbeitan added one caution for smokers, “Just because we now have an effective tool for screening for lung cancer does not mean that it is okay for people to keep smoking. Tobacco use remains the single most preventable cause of death and disease and all smokers should talk to their physicians about getting help with smoking cessation.”
*A 30 pack-year smoking history equals the number of years smoking x the number of packs per day. For example, a 2 pack/day smoking habit for 15 years = 30 pack-years.
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