Lung cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide. In the United States, lung cancer deaths account for almost 25% of all cancer-related deaths. This is primarily due to the advanced stage at diagnosis. Early detection is therefore critical in cancer treatment and survival. Screening is recommended for several cancers such as breast, cervix, colon, etc.
Currently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for lung cancer with a Low Dose CT (LDCT) scan for individuals aged 55 to 80 who have a 30 pack-year history of smoking as well as screening former smokers who have quit within the last 15 years. Smoking is a definite risk factor for lung cancer and is measured in pack-years. A pack-year is simply the number of packs of cigarettes smoked a day multiplied by the time in years. For example, if an individual smoked one pack of cigarettes a day (20 cigarettes) for 20 years, they have a 20 pack-year history, and if an individual smoked two packs a day for 20 years, they have a 40 pack-year history, and so on.
Although lung cancer is common among people aged 55 to 80 with a 30 pack-year history of smoking and in those who have quit smoking within the last 15 years, there are reports that two-thirds of newly diagnosed lung cancers occurred in individuals who did not fall into the USPSTF high-risk group. Mayo Clinic Foundation and the National Institute of Health recently published a large prospective, observational study in the Lancet comparing the survival outcomes in these groups.
Statistical analysis was performed and survival outcomes were compared in the USPSTF group with 2 other groups of lung cancer patients: those aged 50 to 54 (younger age) and those who had quit smoking more than 15 years ago (long-term quitters). These patients were followed for 6.5 years. The 5-year survival did not differ significantly in these groups (23%, 22%, and 27% respectively). Therefore, early detection in both groups using Low Dose CT scans would enable improved outcomes for a larger lung cancer cohort.
In addition to being a risk factor for lung cancer, smoking is also known to increase the risk of several other cancers such as bladder, cervix, mouth and throat, larynx (voice box), etc. If you are a current smoker, have smoked in the past, or are exposed to second-hand smoke, speak to your doctor about the screening measures appropriate for you.
To find out the type of cancer screenings offered at Ackerman Cancer Center, please call (904) 880-5522 or visit the screening services page on our website.