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Lung cancer screening recommendations seek to improve outcomes

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year there are more than 236,000 new lung cancer cases in the United States. For those that are high-risk for lung cancer, the screening process is a simple and painless test that uses a low-dose CT scan (computed tomography) to detect early-stage lung cancer when it’s more likely to be cured. 

Eligibility for lung cancer screening has recently been expanded by the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) to include anyone 50 to 80 years old with a cigarette smoking history of 20 pack years (the equivalent of 1 pack per day for 20 years or 2 packs a day for 10 years). The change seeks to provide early detection for women and underserved populations who are more likely to develop lung cancer earlier in life and with a shorter history of smoking.

Despite the positive impact on lung cancer outcomes, lung cancer screening uptake remains low. This is especially true in Latinx/Hispanic persons.*

Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S., accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths. One of the most important steps you can take to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking. “Some of the benefits to quitting smoking are immediate. After just 20 minutes of not smoking your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Other benefits are reaped over time. If you manage to quit for 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease is close to that of a nonsmoker,” explains Suzanne C. Byrne, MD, Medical Director for Lung Cancer Screening at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital

Dr. Byrne says, “For qualifying participants, lung cancer screening is the best way to prevent lung cancer death, but screening uptake remains low despite the potential lifesaving impacts. Talk to your doctor about whether you qualify.”

To find out if you’re eligible for lung cancer screening, talk to your primary care provider. For more information about Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Lung Cancer Screening Program, email us at

*U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Lung Cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2021;325(10):962–970. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.1117

Published 11/3/22

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