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Large Number of Healthy Adults Not Being Screened for Lung Cancer

May 21, 2018

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By Sara Bondell

Lung cancer screening is free to those who qualify and can save lives, but not a lot of people are taking advantage of it.

A new study that will be presented at the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting found that less than two percent of the more than seven million current and former smokers in the United States get recommended lung cancer screenings.

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer worldwide and is expected to kill more than 154,000 people in the United States in 2018. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends people ages 55 to 80 who have smoked about one pack a day for 30 years be screened for lung cancer.

Dr. Tawee Tanvetyanon, an oncologist in Moffitt’s Thoracic Department, says some may be avoiding screening because of the misconception that the CT scan, a type of X-ray, can cause harmful radiation exposure.

“This is not necessarily the case because we use a low-dose technique,” Tanvetyanon said. “This technique minimizes radiation exposure. The test is very safe and quick. It only takes one breath hold to complete.”

Tanvetyanon says lung cancers do occur in former smokers and recommends screening for anyone who has quit smoking within the past 15 years.

Studies show annual scans can find cancer sooner and most of the time the disease can be completely cured.

Moffitt Cancer Center’s lung cancer screening program is open to patients considered high-risk based on national guidelines and evidence based practices.

Eligibility criteria endorsed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force: 

  • Are between the ages of 55 and 80 (ages 55-77 for Medicare beneficiaries)
  • Are current or former smokers with a 30-pack per year history equivalent to one of the following:
    o One pack a day for 30 years 
    o Two packs a day for 15 years 
    o Three packs a day for 10 years
  • If a former smoker, must have quit within the last 15 years

In addition to the criteria above, the National Comprehensive Care Network (NCCN) also classifies high-risk as individuals who are:

  • 50 years of age or older
  • Current or former smokers with a 20-pack per year history equivalent to one of the following:
    o One pack a day for 20 years 
    o Two packs a day for 10 years
  • One additional risk factor
    o Examples include: radon exposure, family history of lung cancer, occupational exposures, personal cancer history, COPD, etc. 

To determine your level of risk and if you qualify for a lung cancer screening, please call today. You can also make an appointment with one of Moffitt’s pulmonologists for further evaluation and to weigh your options. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form.