Although lung cancer is responsible for most cancer deaths within the U.S., early detection significantly improves the chances of survival. The likelihood of surviving lung cancer is based on the clinical stage at diagnosis. The stages are I-IV, with stage IV lung cancer having the lowest five-year survival rate.
Fortunately, there are ways to detect lung cancer in its early stages and treat it before it spreads. The United States Preventative Task Force recommends lung cancer screening for people who are at high risk.
The screening involves a low-dose CT scan (LDCT), performed once yearly, with no need for needles, contrast agents, or claustrophobia. This test takes only minutes and is followed by a full report to you and your referring provider, indicating if there are any potential signs of lung cancer.
If you meet the criteria listed below, you qualify for screening and have an opportunity to improve your health.
- Adults aged 50 to 80 years or 50 to 77 years for Medicare
- Smoking history of at least 20 pack-years (e.g., one pack per day for 20 years or two packs per day for 10 years)
- Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
- No signs or symptoms of lung cancer (new or worsening shortness of breath, new or changing cough, unexplained significant weight loss, chest pain, coughing up blood)
Talk to your primary care physician about your risks for lung cancer and consider lung cancer screening if you meet these criteria through a certified, multi-disciplinary lung cancer screening program.
John Ferguson is a pulmonary and critical care physician at Lutheran Medical Center.