With lung cancer deemed responsible for one out of four cancer deaths in the United States, the American Cancer Society has taken a stand recommending a simple screening test that can save lives. A simple five-minute low-dose CT scan can detect this form of cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages, opening the door on treatment that has the potential to be lifesaving.
At present, an estimated 224,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. About 158,000 people die from this cause. The high mortality rate is largely credited to the late stages in which lung cancer is generally diagnosed. With no highly effective screening tool available for widespread use, such as is available for breast or prostate cancer, many people do not find out they have the disease until it is unlikely treatments will be effective. The low-dose CT scan, however, is providing high-risk patients and their doctors an edge.
Low-dose CT scans enable doctors to see inside the body and detect lung abnormalities early. This test can lead to further procedures, such as biopsies, if cancer is suspected. Should a patient test positive for lung cancer, surgery to remove the diseased tissue is the most likely cause of treatment.
At present, the recommendation is for people who are considered at the highest risk to undergo CT scan screening. That high-risk category includes those age 55 to 74 who have a history of smoking at least a pack a day for 30 years and currently smoke. Reformed smokers who have quite within the past 15 years are also urged to consider screening.
Research has shown that CT scans can and are having a big impact on the mortality rate. The use of scans to find lung cancer earlier is attributed to a 20 percent reduction in mortality rate. People who are concerned about lung cancer or at risk for the disease are urged to talk to their doctors. A five-minute test could very well save their lives.