The American Society of Clinical Oncology (physicians involved in cancer diagnosis and treatment) has made an interesting, but disturbing, observation about screening smokers for lung cancer. In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial found that the mortality due to lung cancer could be reduced by 20% if patients who had smoked for at least 30 pack years (years of smoking x packs per day) and were 55-75 years of age were screened annually by a CT scan of the chest. Based on these findings the Lung Disease Center and the Altoona Lung Specialists started the first local screening program. Initially, insurance issues were a problem, but now most insurance companies recognize the benefit of this screening process and are willing to pay for it. However, what the American Society of Clinical Oncology found is nationally only 1.9% of the 7.6 million eligible smokers in the U.S. underwent screening in 2016.
The screening programs for other cancers for example, breast cancer, run circles around lung cancer screening. In 2015, 65% of women aged 40 or older underwent mammography for breast cancer screening. This comparison is appalling, especially when you consider lung cancer kills more people annually than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined!
Some researchers feel that the stigma associated with smoking confirms the impression that smokers have made a poor lifestyle choice since smoking is a modifiable risk factor. Whatever the reason, lung cancer screening is a vital tool and all physicians and patients are encouraged to use it.