*Pack years = average # of packs per day X # of years smoked
1 pack/day X 30 years = 30 pack years
1.5 packs a day X 20 years = 30 pack years
IF THESE GUIDELINES APPLY TO YOU, you should have a conversation with your doctor or healthcare provider about lung cancer CT screening.
IF THESE GUIDELINES DO NOT APPLY TO YOU, but you are still concerned about your risk for lung cancer, we encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider.
These guidelines were approved by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, and endorsed by Free to Breathe.
The purpose of cancer screening is to find cancer early, when the disease may be easier to treat, and could be curable. Screenings check for cancer (or conditions that may lead to cancer) in people who do not have cancer symptoms. Examples of common cancer screening methods include mammography (breast cancer), colonoscopy (colon cancer), and pap smears (cervical cancer).
The only currently recommended screening test for lung cancer uses low-dose, spiral computed tomography (CT) scans. CT scans involve taking a series of x-ray pictures to create 3-D images of the lungs. Screening is painless and quick, usually involving a person lying comfortably on a table for just a few minutes.
The amount of radiation exposure in low-dose CT screening is relatively small, and the risk of this radiation causing cancer in the future is minimal.
Sometimes, the result of CT screening is a "false positive," when the screening finds something that turns out not to be cancer. Follow-up tests resulting from false positives can sometimes pose additional, potentially serious, risks to patients and may cause worry. Because everyone's situation is unique, it's important for you to discuss the risks and benefits of screening with your healthcare provider.
If doctors find something of concern in your screening, they may follow-up with more CT scans, a lung biopsy or chest surgery. These tests will help determine if the area of concern is cancer at all. A recent study found that CT screening revealed areas of concern in the lungs of about 25% of people who were screened. However, the overwhelming majority of these concerns turned out to NOT be cancer.
If CT screening and subsequent tests do reveal lung cancer, follow-up tests and procedures will help doctors determine the type and stage of your lung cancer, which will help them recommend treatment options. Learn more about lung cancer diagnosis and treatment >
At this time, medical experts only recommend screening for people with a high risk of lung cancer due to age and smoking history. For people who do not fit the guidelines above, there is no scientific evidence that screening saves lives, and the potential risks don't outweigh the benefits. However, if you are still concerened about your risk for lung cancer, talk with your healthcare provider.
If you and your healthcare provider decide you should be screened for lung cancer, work together to decide where to get screened and to get your questions answered about whether screening will be covered by your insurance. Because these lung cancer screening guidelines are new, some insurance companies may not yet be covering screening. All insurance providers will be required to cover screening for lung cancer by January 1, 2015
It's important to get screened at a healthcare center experienced in providing lung cancer screening and follow-up. These links provide a good place to start the search:
If you currently smoke, the single most important thing you can do is quit. Your risk for lung cancer decreases significantly when you stop smoking. You can get help from state quitlines and other programs. Visit naquitline.org or becomeanex.org, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Check your home for radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Radon test kits and radon removal services are relatively inexpensive, and sometimes free. Learn more at epa.gov/radon.
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