In March, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new lung cancer screening guidelines that double the number of individuals eligible for annual screening.
This modification has the potential to save thousands of lives, as lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, accounting for approximately 25 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.
Unfortunately, lung cancer is often diagnosed once a person has symptoms and the disease is at an advanced stage, which contributes to its low overall survival rate.
Lung cancer screening is an important method to detect and treat lung cancer in its early stages, and thanks to the new screening guidelines, even more high-risk adults are now eligible for an annual low-dose CT scan.
Who does the updated eligibility cover?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends yearly lung cancer screening for people who match the following three criteria:
- Have a 20 pack-year or more smoking history;
- Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years;
- Are between 50 and 80 years old;
A pack-year is a term used to measure the amount a person has smoked over a long period of time. For example, a person would be considered to have a 20 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years. With these new guidelines in place, nearly 15 million people are now eligible for an annual lung cancer screening.
What steps should I take to protect my health?
While expanding eligibility is a step in the right direction, it’s not enough to be eligible for lung cancer screening. If you think you may be eligible, you are encouraged to talk with your primary care doctor about screening. Your primary care doctor is your partner in health and will be able to offer a full assessment to determine if an annual lung cancer screening is right for you.
If you are considered at high-risk for lung cancer and screening is the right option for you, Glens Falls Hospital offers access to low-dose screening at its medical imaging center at Hudson Headwater’s Moreau Family Health, which has easy parking and a simple check-in process.
A new CT scanner has an embedded computer-aided detection system, which helps the radiologist identify suspicious findings on the images. The software uses algorithms derived from thousands of previously diagnosed lung cancers to compare with the patient’s images. This allows the radiologist to identify small areas of concern.
Current smokers are encouraged to quit and are given information about smoking cessation programs available at Glens Falls Hospital. Trained counselors guide people into reducing or eliminating consumption of tobacco products.
We know first-hand the life-saving benefits of regular screenings. In 2020, more than 1,000 residents were screened for lung cancer at Glens Falls Hospital. Of those, we were able to detect and effectively treat stage 1 lung cancer in 13 individuals.
We are deeply committed to adding more healthy years to the lives of the people we serve.
Understand your risk, talk with your doctor and get screened if you are considered high-risk. Encourage your friends and family who may be high-risk to do the same.
Together, we can save lives.
Vickie Yattaw is an oncology certified nurse and the oncology education and support services manager at Glens Falls Hospital.