The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued new recommendations for annual screenings for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. These guidelines replace the 2013 USPSTF statement that included individuals aged 55 to 80 who had a 30 pack-year smoking history or currently smoked.
Catholic Health’s Good Samaritan Hospital and Cancer Institute Director of Thoracic Oncology Ashish Sangal, MD, said the guidelines would help doctors diagnose lung cancer at an earlier stage and provide patients with a greater chance of survival. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. In 2020, an estimated 228,820 people were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 135,720 persons died of the disease.
Q.: Why is the announcement from the USPSTF so important?
A.: These guidelines provide an opportunity to diagnose lung cancer at an earlier stage and allow us to treat the disease before it has progressed, giving people a chance to live a longer. The only way to improve survival outcomes is to screen high-risk people and diagnose lung cancer early.
Q: How will the guidelines help doctors care for their patients?
A: This will give doctors greater latitude to screen more individuals who are more likely to develop lung cancer. The screening with low-dose CT scan, approved by Medicare, will allow more people to be tested and give us the opportunity to address management sooner.
Q: How important is it to identify lung cancer at an early stage?
A: If we can detect lung cancer early, we have more options to treat including potential cure. Overall, lung cancer remains the leading cause of mortality and morbidity with poor prognosis and survival rate as diagnosis is made in late stages. However, screening and detecting early-stage lung cancer has a better prognosis and translates to better survival.
Q: Smoking remains the number one cause of lung cancer. Should non-smokers also have concerns about the disease?
A: More than 20% of lung cancers in the U.S. have been diagnosed in people we categorize as “never smokers” or people that have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Many of these cases are the result of second-hand or third-hand smoking along with other genetic and environmental factors. As we continue to understand lung cancer in never smokers, it remains an area of evolving research for recommendations with regards to screening guidelines and identifying high-risk individuals.
Information on Catholic Health’s Lung Cancer Screening program may be obtained by visiting chsli.org/lung-cancer-screening-program or calling (844) CHS-LUNG. For information on the oncology services offered by Catholic Health, visit chsli.org/cancer or call (844) 86-CANCER.