Only 2 to 4 percent of the estimated 8 million Americans who are candidates for lung cancer screening because of their smoking history have undergone the recommended low-dose CT testing. The National Cancer Institute and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend screening for people ages 55 to 80 years who have a 30-pack-year smoking history (one pack a day for 30 years, for instance, or two packs a day for 15 years) and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
Screening is not recommended if you haven’t smoked for the past 15 years or have a health problem that substantially limits your life expectancyor the ability or willingness to have curative lung surgery.
If you are unsure whether you are a candidate for screening, fill out the NCI’s online tool. If it recommends screening for you, it puts the benefits and harms (notably false positive results) in perspective.
Another online tool is Lung Cancer Screening: Should I get screened? from the University of Michigan.
Lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer in the U.S. (about 154,000 deaths a year), and research suggests that screening of high-risk people can reduce these deaths by 20 percent.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see The Value of Lung Scans.