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Is Lung Cancer Screening Right for You?
You may have heard about CT (computed tomography) scans to detect lung cancer. Screening saves lives—but it works better for some people than others.
Low-dose CT scans of the chest can spot lung cancer early, when doctors have a chance of curing it. However, the test has risks as well as benefits. For one thing, it sometimes produces false positives (you’re told you have cancer but you actually don’t). What’s more, it exposes you to small levels of radiation, which also has risks. Because of these risks, doctors are trying to determine exactly who gains the most from lung cancer screening.
Screening Helps Those at Highest Risk the Most
Health experts may soon refine lung cancer screening guidelines to reflect this new information. Right now, several groups recommend the scan for anyone who meets all of the following criteria:
If all of these people got low-dose CT scans, it’s possible that 20 percent fewer people would die of lung cancer. The bottom line? If you smoke, or did in the past, discuss your lung cancer risk with your doctor. He or she can help you decide if screening makes sense for you.
Symptoms May Appear Late
How to Breathe Easier
“American Association for Thoracic Surgery Supports USPSTF Recommendation for Lung Cancer Screening.”American Association for Thoracic Surgery, August 2013, www.newswise.com/articles/view/607079?print-article.
“Lung Cancer Screening (PDQ).” National Cancer Institute, November 2012. www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/screening/lung/Patient/page1
“Lung Cancer Prevention (PDQ).” National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/prevention/lung/Patient/page1/AllPages.
“Targeting of Low-Dose CT Screening According to the Risk of Lung-Cancer Death.” S. A. Kovalchik et al. The New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 369, no. 3, pp. 245-54, www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1301851.
“Final Recommendation Statement, Lung Cancer: Screening.” U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, December 2013. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/lung-cancer-screening
“What Are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?” American Lung Association, www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/learning-more-about-lung-cancer/understanding-lung-cancer/symptoms.html.