If you’re a current or former smoker, you may benefit from annual lung cancer screenings. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. It kills more people each year than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.  
Lung cancer typically doesn’t cause symptoms until it’s in the advanced stage. Screenings can help detect lung cancer in its earliest stages, where a cure can be achieved.  
The National Football League (NFL) has provided funds for the American Cancer Society to increase lung cancer screening awareness and tobacco cessation activities. Pardee is one of two community health-screening partners for the American Cancer Society NFL Change Grant Lung Cancer Screening. In collaboration with Blue Ridge Health Center, funding from the grant will provide lung cancer screening and smoking cessation resources for uninsured patients, who are at high risk for lung cancer. 
In March 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its lung cancer screening guidelines. It both lowered the quantity of tobacco consumed and decreased the age eligible for screening. You are now eligible for a yearly low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) lung cancer screening if you’re between the ages of 50 and 80, currently smoke or have quit within the last 15 years, and have at minimum, a 20 pack-year history.  
A pack-year is how clinicians estimate how much you have smoked in your lifetime. Clinicians multiply how many packs of cigarettes you smoked each day by how many years you smoked. One pack-year means you smoked about one pack (20 cigarettes) every day for a year. If you smoked a pack a day for 20 years or two packs per day for 10 years, that means you have a 20 pack-year history.  
The USPSTF doesn’t recommend lung cancer screenings for people who haven’t smoked in 15 years or longer, are 81 or older, or have a health problem that prevents them from having surgery if they are diagnosed with lung cancer.  
During a lung cancer screening, the individual will lie on a table and an X-ray machine will take detailed pictures of your chest to include your lungs, heart, and bones. This procedure uses a low dose of radiation, isn’t painful and only takes a few minutes. It is important to note that this machine is not enclosed like the MRI scanner. 
Medicare and most insurance plans help pay for lung cancer screenings. Check with your insurance provider about your coverage.  
There are some risks associated with lung cancer screenings. First, they can lead to false-positive results. This means the test suggests a person has lung cancer, but they are in actuality, cancer-free. A false-positive result can lead to additional imaging and procedures.  
Secondly, radiation from recurrent LDCT tests can increase the risk of cancer.   
Screenings can also lead to “overdiagnosis.” This means the screening found a case of lung cancer that might never have caused any problems for the patient.  
Because of these risks, lung cancer screenings are only recommended for people with a high risk of developing lung cancer and who are healthy enough to get treatment if they do have lung cancer.  
The No. 1 way to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to quit smoking and avoid the inhalation of secondhand smoke and burning biofuels. Even if you get yearly lung cancer screenings, you should still quit smoking.  
If you need help quitting, talk to your primary care provider. There are medications and therapies that can make it easier to quit.  
Ask your health care provider if you would benefit from a lung cancer screening. To find a provider near you, visit www.pardeehospital.org. 
Dr. Mark Goldblatt is a board-certified pulmonologist at Carolina Lung and Sleep at Pardee.  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.