If you are at a high risk for lung cancer, experts recommend that you get screened yearly. But only a very small number of cancers are found through screening, and the process itself poses some risks. So should you still get checked?
The American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force say yes — if you’re older and are (or were) a longtime smoker.
Peter Mazzone, MD, MPH, Director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program for Cleveland Clinic’s Respiratory Institute, helps us take a closer look at what you need to know about screening.
Q: What patients do doctors typically refer for screening?
A: Your doctor likely will refer you for screening if you fall into these categories:
- You are between age 55 and 77
- You have smoked at least 30 pack years of cigarettes (figured by multiplying the number of packs you smoked each day by the amount of time you smoked: 30 pack years is one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years)
- You have been a smoker in the past 15 years
It’s also important that you’re healthy enough to benefit from finding and treating early-stage lung cancer.
If someone comes to us in a wheelchair wearing oxygen and couldn’t tolerate treatment, they typically aren’t eligible for screening. However, there are nearly 9 million Americans who are at high risk and should receive screening.