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Cancer ScreeningLung Cancer

Lung Cancer Screening Could Save Your Life

November 2022 – Lung Cancer

When lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, before it progresses outside of the lungs, the chance of survival is much higher than when it is diagnosed at a later stage.

Lung cancer often progresses very quickly, and is the leading cause of cancer-related death, so catching it early is even more important than in some other types of cancer. And because there are often no symptoms of lung cancer at early stages, having regular screening for people at risk is crucial.

In 2021, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) lowered the age of starting annual screening for people who are at risk for lung cancer.1 These guidelines now recommend screening with low-dose CT scan in people at risk for lung cancer who have no symptoms. If the screening shows something suspicious, you will likely need to do other testing. So ask questions.

Who Is at Risk?

Smoking remains the most important risk factor for having lung cancer. The second risk factor is older age. Because about 15% of women and 10% of men who are diagnosed with lung cancer had never smoked,1 it is strongly recommended to start screening if you are 50 or older, even if you’ve never smoked. Early diagnosis can save your life!

If you are smoking or smoked a pack of cigarettes a day in the past 15 years, or if you are 50 or older, you are at an increased risk for lung cancer, and you should have lung cancer screening once a year.

When to Start?

The recommended age for starting annual lung cancer screening is now age 50, which replaces the previous USPSTF recommendation to start screening at age 55. Lung cancer is now being diagnosed in younger people, and the USPSTF has finally lowered the starting age to 50. Annual screening should continue up to age 80.

How Often Should I Be Screened?

Lung cancer can be aggressive and often progresses to a more advanced stage very quickly. So it is important to have the screening every year, until you are 80 or until you have not smoked for at least 15 years.

Talk to your doctor about the results of your screening to make sure you understand what it showed, and when to have your next screening.

Reference

  1. US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for lung cancer. JAMA. 2021;325(10):962-970. https://bit.ly/3WFcChy.

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Last modified: November 16, 2022

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