Lung Cancer Screenings Can Save Lives for Those Most at Risk

Through the Affordable Care Act and pending new draft recommendations by Medicare, free lung cancer scans will be available for those at serious risk for developing the deadly disease, potentially saving thousands of lives.

Lung cancer is the third most common cancer, but is the cause of death in more individuals annually than in the top two cancers, prostate and breast, combined. Lung cancer is a particularly aggressive form of cancer, and most people aren’t diagnosed with it until it is at a late stage. A study done in 2011 showed the positive effect that early low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) can have in diagnosing early-stage lung cancer and reducing mortality rates. In the study, 53,454 individuals who were at high-risk for developing lung cancer were given three annual exams, using either LDCT or chest x-rays.

In the two groups, those who received LDCT were able to be diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier stage. The study suggested that three lung cancer deaths could be prevented with the screening for every 1,000 people screened.

The screenings do have false-positive risks from what Gianfrancesco Genoso understands. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that screening with LDCT for lung cancer only be done on those most at risk. These include older individuals ages 55 to 80, who had heavy smoking habits, and either still currently smoke or recently quit smoking. Using these guidelines will help make the screening most effective.

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