Heavy smokers should have annual lung
scan, task force says
task force is recommending that if people can't make adjustments to
their lifestyles, that they should at least have preventative
medical tests. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force or USPSTF say
that up to nine million Americans should have annual lung scans. The
recommendation is significant, as the test which runs $250 to $300
could soon be provided by insurance companies for free.
Heavy smokers who are at least 55 should have
an annual CT scan to check for lung cancer, the panel recommends.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online):
The task force says that at least nine million people have
smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years, An annual
lung scan could save up to 20 percent of these people from
developing lung cancer.
Heavy smokers who are at least 55 should have an annual CT scan
to check for lung cancer, the panel recommends.
"It ranks it alongside mammography, colonoscopy, some other
established cancer screening tests," Dr. Kenneth Lin, a former
task force member says. Lin is now an associate professor of
family medicine at Georgetown University. "This screening test
can sometimes find lung cancers at a treatable stage and . we
can cure people that we otherwise might not have been able to
"This is a tremendous opportunity to really change the tide in
lung cancer treatment," Dr. Christopher Lathan, a lung cancer
expert at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical
School in Boston. He told reporters that he was "ecstatic" by
Lin however is a little more cautious. "I think this is an
advance but at the same time I don't think that everybody should
necessarily run out and get this test because of all the
problems that the test can cause in the long run," he says.
The USPSTF estimates that there are nine million heavy smokers,
which includes current smokers aged 55 to 80 or former heavy
smokers who quit less than 15 years ago. Patients who smoked
even more heavily, such as three packs a day for 10 years would
"They are right in the heart of what the science shows," Dr.
Peter Bach of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New
York says. The American Lung Association has some guidance here.
The idea of screening people who seem healthy for lung cancer
has been highly controversial since it was first proposed more
than a decade ago. Smoking is the single biggest cause of
cancers of all types and it causes most cases of lung cancer,
and remains the largest cancer killer.
As it doesn't start causing symptoms until it's already spread,
lung cancer is among the most insidious of all killers.
Responsible for the deaths of nearly 160,000 people a year,
according to the American Cancer Society. The idea of screening
people and catching the cancer early is an appealing one.
Dr. Claudia Henschke of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New
York, who led a study that started the push for screening, says
she is delighted. "It is going to make a big difference to how
many people die of lung cancer," she told NBC News.
"Back in 1999 when we published our results, we were very
confident that it was going to make a big difference," she
added. "Now, finally, it will be made available to those people
who are at highest risk. I am thrilled."