Even though lung cancer kills more people in the United States than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers combined, only a fraction of people at high risk for lung cancer are tested for the disease. New guidelines from the American Cancer Society will help millions more people get regular scans to catch tumors early and save lives.
With one important exception, the new guidelines mirror existing recommendations from the highly influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. In 2021, the committee recommends that people between the ages of 50 and 80 who have smoked at least 20 “pack years” and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years undergo a low-dose CT scan, a type of X-ray test. He said that people should undergo an annual inspection. Ray of light.
Heavy smokers who quit smoking more than 15 years ago will still need to get an annual health check, according to new guidelines released Wednesday.
Experts said previous guidance was based on the incorrect premise that the longer someone quit smoking, the lower their risk of cancer.
A careful look at data on people diagnosed with lung cancer shows that the risk of cancer increases with age, even for people who have not smoked for 15 years or more, says the head of the American Cancer Society. said Scientific Director Dr. William Dahut. One of the authors of the association and guidelines.
Ex-smokers’ lungs may have felt a little better initially, but the effects didn’t last, he says.
Mr Dafoot said “people have been lulled into a false sense of security” which may have contributed to the “horribly low” testing rate.
2022 report According to a report by the American Lung Association, only 5.8% of Americans have been tested for lung cancer, and in some states the rate is as low as 1%.
“Compare this to a mammogram, which about two-thirds of women get a mammogram once they reach a certain age,” he says.
Is lung cancer screening worth it?
Previous guidelines said 14.3 million people in the U.S. would be eligible for testing. Mr Dahut said the new recommendations would include an additional 5 million people.
The prognosis for people whose cancer is detected late is grim. The guideline authors note that the overall five-year survival rate for lung cancer diagnosed between 2012 and 2018 was 23%.
More than 80% of people whose lung cancer is detected early through screening are still alive 20 years later, according to a study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. Radiological Society of North America Conference last year. According to estimates by the Cancer Society, there will be 238,340 new lung cancer patients and 127,070 deaths from lung cancer this year.
Lung cancer is so deadly that most people are not diagnosed until the very late stages. Many smokers and ex-smokers don’t realize that a simple low-dose CT scan can detect lung cancer early and save lives. There is also “confusion” among primary care physicians who order tests, Dahat said.
Medicare companies and private insurance companies generally pay for the tests recommended by the task force. However, Dafoot suggested it could take time for insurance to cover the additional people included in the new guidelines.
Dr. Chifu Jeffrey Yang, a thoracic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, conducted an informal survey to better understand why people are not getting tested.
“We asked people if they had heard of it. No one had,” he said. “But everyone has heard of mammograms for breast cancer, colonoscopies for colorectal cancer, and pap smears for cervical cancer.”
Dr. David Yankelevitz, director of the lung biopsy service at the Icahn School of Medicine, said the current low screening rates are “a national tragedy.” “This is supposed to be our biggest weapon against cancer so far. It’s very scary and a huge failure that such a small number of people are getting tested.”
She would like to see the criteria further expanded, especially for women, Black people and Native Americans.Research shows that these groups more likely to develop lung cancer They were underexposed and young.
“The younger they are and the shorter the herd, the higher the risk,” Yankelevitz said.
Dr. Panagis Galiasatos, director of the Tobacco Treatment and Cancer Screening Clinic at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, said the change in screening guidelines to include people who quit smoking long ago is “huge.”
“People in their 40s and 50s who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day as teenagers and young adults often don’t consider themselves smokers,” he says. “But you need to get scanned.”