As one of the most common and potentially deadly forms of cancer, lung cancer is problematic to treat unless it is caught in its earliest phases. The five-year mortality rate for the disease is especially high considering the problems physicians face in diagnosing the disease in early stages. While common X-rays have proven helpful in spotting the disease, many high-risk individuals go with early-stage tumors undetected because of this screening protocol’s limitations.
Researchers have found time and again that low-dose CT scans can offer a leg up on diagnosing lung cancer early. This is seen as vital for lowering the mortality rates. A basic low-dose CT scan, in fact, has now earned Medicare approval for high risk patients with a history of smoking at least a pack of cigarettes a day for at least 30 years. Those between the ages of 55 and 80 are now cleared for coverage of annual screening exams. Many other insurance companies are following suit.
Just how effective is the screening procedure? CT scans have proven themselves rather adept at detecting even the smallest of lung cancer tumors. A large-scale study, in fact, has been used to promote the change in Medicare coverage.
The benefits of high-risk individuals undergoing regular CT screening are big, doctors say. The hope is that early detection will reduce the number of deaths associated with the disease by enabling doctors to more easily identify and remove tumors in stage 1 of the disease. As it stands presently, more than 157,000 people die from lung cancer yearly in the United States.
People who are at higher risk for lung cancer, such as long-term smokers, are urged to discuss the condition with their healthcare providers. Early detection and screening procedures can give patients diagnosed with the disease a real opportunity to beat it soundly.