Who Should Consider Lung Cancer Screening

Who Should Consider Lung Cancer Screening

Who Should Consider Lung Cancer Screening

You should consider lung cancer screening if you meet all of the following criteria, as determined by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:

  • You are between the ages of 55 and 80.
    • Note that Medicare only covers screening through age 77.
  • You currently smoke cigarettes or quit smoking within the last 15 years.
  • You have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years.
    • One pack-year equals smoking one pack of cigarettes (20 cigarettes) every day for one year.
    • To determine your pack-years, multiply the number of packs per day smoked by the number of years smoked.
      • For example, if you smoked one pack per day for 30 years, your formula would be 1 x 30 = 30 pack-years.
      • If you smoked two packs per day for 15 years, your formula would be 2 x 15 = 30 pack-years.
    • Many people who smoke vary the quantity of cigarettes they smoke over time. The pack-year calculator at smokingpackyears.com can help you calculate your smoking history.
  • You do not have any symptoms of lung cancer.
    • Symptoms of lung cancer can include recent weight loss, a new cough, new hoarseness or coughing up blood.
    • If you have any symptoms of lung cancer, contact your physician immediately.

Potential Benefits of Lung Cancer Screening

  • The primary benefit of lung cancer screening is the possibility of finding lung cancer at an early stage when it is easiest to treat. Lung cancer screening has been shown to decrease lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.
  • Screening can bring peace of mind if no cancer is detected.
  • Screening can reinforce healthy lifestyle choices like smoking cessation.

Important Considerations

The decision to pursue screening should be made carefully and thoughtfully. It is important to note:

  • Screening may produce anxiety.
    Some people who undergo screening experience anxiety while waiting for results, or if screening results are inconclusive and lead to additional follow-up.
  • Screening may lead to additional evaluation.
    While about 85 percent of our patients have a screen result that is negative, some will be referred for further evaluation, which may include additional CT scans or invasive testing. Most of these follow-up tests will rule out lung cancer, but some can expose you to further radiation. While the exact risk from the radiation is unknown, it is generally felt to be significantly less than the risk of lung cancer in those eligible for screening, and it is minimized by the use of a low-dose technique.
  • Screening does not protect you from getting lung cancer.
    A negative result today does not mean you will not develop lung cancer later. For this reason, lung cancer screening should be performed annually (while eligible). Quitting smoking is the most important way to reduce lung cancer risk.