To Screen or Not to Screen for Lung Cancer?

A study in CHEST, a peer-reviewed medical journal covering chest diseases and related issues, determined that a structured prescreening counseling and shared decision-making visit with healthcare professionals lead to a better understanding of the benefits and risks, as well as the eligibility criteria, of lung cancer screening using a low-dose CT scan.

This is an important finding because lung cancer screening using a low-dose CT scan can be a lifesaving test for high-risk patients, but while it offers clear benefits, incidental findings and radiation exposure mean there are some potential risks associated with yearly screening.  Most patients do not fully understand the benefits or potential harms of a screening program, nor are they clear on exactly who should undergo testing.

“We found a generally poor level of understanding of the eligibility criteria, benefits, and harms of screening upon entry into the program,” explained Peter J. Mazzone, MD, MPH, FCCP, Director of the Lung Cancer Program for the Respiratory Institute and the Lung Cancer Screening Program, Cleveland Clinic.  “This understanding improved substantially after the visit at the time of the decision about whether or not to proceed with screening.  Patients generally felt the messages were delivered at an appropriate level and felt more comfortable about their decision after the visit.”

The American Cancer Society recommends screening for people who are:  age 55-74, in fairly good health and are current smokers or have quit smoking in the last 15 years, have at least a 30 pack year history of smoking (equal to 1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs per day for 15 years).

Alliance Cancer Center recommends screening for lung cancer and encourages patients to discuss low-dose CT scans with their physician to better understand the benefits and risks associated with the screening.  The scan only takes a few minutes and can save your life.  Low dose CT lung screening is covered by most private insurers.  Medicare covers the screening for people meeting the American Cancer Society recommendations, but extends the age to age 77.  For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please contact your primary care physician today.

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