There have been several articles written in this column about the need for lung cancer screening. Chief among the reasons is that there has been shown to be a 20% reduction in mortality if lung cancers are found early and treated appropriately. The presence of other abnormalities is often detected, leading to treatments of other non-pulmonary diseases.
Our office was the first in the area to begin developing a lung cancer early detection program (EDP). At first, there was some resistance from insurance carriers, but over the years the appropriateness and medical utility of this screening procedure became accepted. The importance of continued use of this screening technique has been further validated by a recent expansion of the screening criteria.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has expanded the criteria for lung cancer screening. They have lowered the age at which screening starts from 55 to 50 years of age, and reduced the criterion regarding smoking history from 30 to 20 pack years. Therefore, the final recommendation reads “ the USPSTF recommends annual screening with low-dose CT for adults aged 50-80 years who have a 20-pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years”.
Surprisingly, lung cancer screening has still not become common place. Latest data suggests that as little as only 16% of the eligible smokers are currently being screened. Discuss this screening with you physician or caregiver on your next visit. The new criteria opens up the door for many more patients.