Surprising to many, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Americans, surpassing colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The main cause of lung cancer is tobacco smoking, accounting for an estimated 84% of annual lung cancer deaths in men and 76% in women. The risk of developing lung cancer can be 20 times greater for heavy smokers than for lifetime nonsmokers, and the risk increases with both the length of time spent smoking and the amount of tobacco smoked. A person is considered at high risk when they have reached 30 pack years, which is the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years spent smoking.
People who quit smoking continue to have a higher risk of developing lung cancer than lifetime nonsmokers, but this risk shrinks over time – after 15 years, risk may be considered comparable to not having smoked. As with all cancers, lung cancer demands early discovery for the most effective treatment. With lung cancer, this means spotting it before it produces symptoms like chronic cough, wheezing or shortness of breath, signs that it has spread outside the lung, when it is typically impossible to cure.
The good news is that research proves that lung cancer screening reduces the risk of dying of lung cancer.
To that end, the American Cancer Society, the US Preventative Services Task Force and the American Association for Thoracic Surgery recommend that current and former smokers ages 55-80 who have reached 30 pack years (or 20 pack years if combined with a chronic respiratory condition like asthma or COPD), engage in an annual lung cancer screening called low-dose computed tomography, or LDCT.
LDCT screening is an easy, noninvasive and painless exam that takes only minutes to perform, with little to no prep required. You simply lie comfortably on a table for a few minutes while the imaging system captures detailed views of your lungs. LDCT screening is capable of discovering lung cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. In fact, LDCT has shown to be 20% more effective at catching early lung cancer than a standard chest X-ray. For 1 in 5 patients, that can be a lifesaving difference.
RAO’s Board-certified radiologists subspecialize in diagnostic radiology and read all results personally and will consult directly with your physician when needed.
Remember, caught early, lung cancer can be cured, so don’t wait. If you’re at high risk for lung cancer, talk to your referring clinician about whether LDCT screening might be right for you. It can be the key to ensuring that you’re around to enjoy all that life has to offer.
Radiology Associates of Ocala