Since 2013, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) have recommended low dose CT lung cancer screening for anyone 55 to 80 years old with a cigarette smoking history of 30 pack years (the equivalent of 1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years). But recently, those recommendations have been updated. The USPSTF now recommends annual lung cancer screening for 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).
“Research shows women and underserved populations are more likely to develop lung cancer earlier in life and with a shorter history of smoking,” says Francine Jacobson, MD, MPH, a Brigham and Women’s radiologist subspecialized in lung cancer screening and Medical Director for Lung Cancer Screening at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. “Lung cancer symptoms usually do not appear until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, making treatment difficult and sometimes ineffective. That’s why early detection is so important. The older recommendations put women and underserved populations at a disadvantage. The new guidelines rectify the disadvantage.”
For those who are apprehensive about scheduling annual exams, Dr. Jacobson says the screening process is simple and painless. “It usually takes about 15 minutes or less and requires no needle stick or special preparation,” she explains.
Despite the positive impact early detection of lung cancer has on outcomes, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Dr. Jacobson reminds her patients, the most important step 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,” she says. “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.”
Do you qualify for lung cancer screening? First speak to your primary care provider to determine your eligibility. Then check with your insurance company to see if you are covered for lung cancer screening.
When you’re ready to schedule a screening appointment, call 617-983-7020.
For questions, contact our team at BWFHLCS@partners.org or 617-983-4586.
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