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Screenings Matter for Those at High Risk for Lung Cancer

While researchers have made great strides in the treatment of many cancers, dramatically increasing survival rates for many forms of the disease, the story is different for lung cancer. This disease remains one of the most common forms of cancer diagnosed each year in the United States with an estimated 222,000 new cases annually. It also remains one of the deadliest with an estimated 155,000 deaths attributed to the cause each year. People who are high risk for this disease, however, may find all that stands between them and a potentially better prognosis is early detection. A new study, in fact, shines light on the importance of routine screening for those deemed at high risk.

The study in question involved the use of low-dose CT scans to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages. Researchers tracked more than 53,000 current or former heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 years old. Patients were screened using the CT upon admission to the study, at the one-year mark and again at 24 months. Researchers ultimately found that people who were screened had a 20 percent lower chance of dying from lung cancer than others who only received routine X-ray screening for the disease.

At present, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends the use of low-dose CT scans for people age 55 to 74 who have smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years or more. The recommendation does extend to those deemed heavy smokers who smoked for a long period of time, but quit within the past 15 years.

Researchers noted that people who initially scanned negative, but developed lung cancer later tended to develop more aggressive cancers. The findings, they say, point to the need for routine screening among populations where risks are high.

People who are concerned about lung cancer are strongly urged to speak with their healthcare providers. Early detection through low-dose CT scans may lead to more effective treatment options.

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