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Even if you stopped smoking decades ago, you might be recommended to be screened for lung cancer


It’s National Lung Cancer Screening Day—and things are a little different this year.

Earlier this month, the American Cancer Society announced an update to their guidelines for lung cancer screenings. Perhaps most notably, the ACS removed the previous requirement for “years since you quit smoking.”

What does that mean exactly? It means that regardless of if or when you’ve quit smoking (which is great and incredibly beneficial to your health!), you may still be recommended to be screened for lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan.

Brass tacks: The guidelines have become simpler. There are two primary criteria for smokers and previous smokers to consider. You are recommended to be screened for lung cancer if…

  1. You are between 50 and 80-years-old…
  2. You have a 20+ pack-year smoking history.
    “A pack-year is equal to smoking 1 pack (or about 20 cigarettes) per day for a year. For example, a person could have a 20 pack-year history by smoking 1 pack a day for 20 years, or by smoking 2 packs a day for 10 years.” (American Cancer Society). 

Here’s a rundown on what has changed:

Although 80% of lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking, lung cancer affects more people than just people who have smoked. Lung cancer is in the top 10 causes of cancer deaths in people who have never smoked. A comprehensive risk assessment can help you to determine if you are at risk for lung cancer—or other cancers as well. 

Access to risk assessments, screenings, and care advocacy programs are essential to lessening the impact of cancer on communities and workforces. For lung cancer specifically, screening rates are abysmally low even though screenings can lower your risk of dying from lung cancer. 

Improving screening rates means improving access. When employers and unions integrate cancer prevention programs into their health benefits packages, they can guide more people to receive these essential screenings.

Lung cancer is the number one leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Symptoms usually do not show up until the disease is in a late stage when it is more difficult and costly to treat. That’s why early detection is so important. 
One more thing…did you know getting screened for lung cancer with a low-dose CT scan only takes a few minutes?

And that it doesn’t hurt?

Who in your life might benefit from learning more about lung cancer screenings?