With more than 220,000 new cases reported annually and some 155,000 deaths attributed to the cause, lung cancer is one of the deadliest forms of this disease known to man. As it is with many other forms of cancer, lung cancer can sometimes be treated highly successfully when it is detected in its earliest stages. While that is the case, the rate of people seeking out and receiving early screening for lung cancer has remained relatively stagnant, a new study has revealed. The relative flatlining of early screening comes even as more insurers are covering the costs associated with screening for people at particularly high risk.
The screening procedure now being recommended for people at high risk of lung cancer is nothing more than a common low-dose CT scan. This imaging tool has been proven to be highly useful in detecting lung cancer in its earliest stages when other tests may miss its presence. With that in mind, many insurers are now paying the costs for people who have a long-term history of smoking. That change came about over the past few years, but an increase of people seeking scans has not been witnessed, researchers say.
The study in question involved an analysis of data from the National Health Interview Survey. Researchers ultimately found that in 2010, only about 3.3 percent of eligible smokers reported getting a CT scan. By 2015, the number had only climbed to about 3.9 percent. It was estimated there were 6.8 million smokers eligible for screening in 2015, meaning millions did not receive this potentially lifesaving screen. Whether the relatively low screening rate is due to failure for this test to be recommended or patients declining the suggestion is unclear. What is clear is that early screening can save lives.
People who are at high risk for lung cancer are urged to talk to their healthcare providers. Low-dose CT scans are generally recommended for people who have a long-term history of smoking at least a pack a day. Former smokers may also find this test is right for them.