Lung Cancer Screening

By Gretchen Bolander

Published 07/17 2014 10:48AM

Updated 07/17 2014 10:49AM

A national task force is now recommending annual screening for patients at risk for lung cancer.

Freeman Oncologist Dr. Atman Shah said, "Lung cancer is the number 3 cause most common cancer in the US. But it is the number 1 cause of death from any cancer. Lung cancer in itself is a very poor prognosis. But if detected earlier, the prognosis could improve."

And now the US Preventive Services Task Force is recommending an annual scan for patients ages 55 to 80, who have smoked within the last 15 years and have a 30 pack year history of smoking. Added Dr. Shah: "If it's smoking for 15 years and 2 packs, it's a 30 year history of smoking. Or if you are smoking one pack per day for 30 years, that's a 30 pack year history of smoking."

The new recommendation focuses on low dose CT scans. Dr. Shah said, "It's the way to screen individuals in an attempt to try to diagnose them at an earlier stage. Or possibly even precancerous lung nodules could be found."

The screening can reveal the need for treatment long before any physical symptoms begin. Said Shah, "It looks for any lung nodules. Or it can look for lung masses when they're at a very small size and potentially resectable."

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