The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently approved guidelines recommending low-dose CT scans annually for older smokers. This applies to people 55 to 79 who have at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking. A 30 pack-year is equivalent to one pack per day for 30 years, two packs per day for 15 years, etc.
Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and about 85 percent of lung cancers are caused by smoking. The risk of lung cancer increases with age. Researches have shown that annual screening with low-dose CT scan helps detect lung cancer earlier when – a chance of cure is higher.
The Task Force reviewed studies on CT lung screening, including the study of more than 50,000 people in the National Lung Screening Trial. Low-dose CT scans more accurately identify early stage cancer than other screening tests, the task force found. Many lung cancer deaths can be prevented by screening those at high risk. The approval by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force means that most insurance plans will begin to look at reimbursement for the cost of lung cancer screening.
Like every test, the screening test can give a false positive reading that suggests a person has lung cancer when no cancer is present. An exposure to radiation, which may be carcinogenic is minimized using low-dose technology. The exposure is similar to that of a mammogram. The task force encourages those with questions to make an appointment with a health professional to discuss these pros and cons.