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Screening tests may save lives — so when is it time to stop?
More people now eligible for lung cancer screening
- By Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch
In the journals
More current and former heavy smokers should consider annual lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scans, according to updated guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The stage at which lung cancer is diagnosed has a major impact on outcome. Lung cancer has a low overall survival rate — only 25%. But if it is detected early and removed surgically, the survival rate is 63%, according to the American Cancer Society. Large studies have shown that screening heavy smokers with low-dose CT scans helps find cancers before they spread.
Based on new evidence, the USPSTF expanded its recommendation to start screening at age 50 rather than 55 and for people who smoke at least a pack a day for 20 years rather than for 30 years. The recommendation applies to both current smokers and those who have quit within the past 15 years.
The USPSTF does not recommend screening for "casual" smokers, or for those who have medical conditions that either limit life expectancy or would prevent them from having lung surgery. The task force guidelines also state that annual screening can stop once a person has not smoked for more than 15 years. The guidelines were published online March 9, 2021, by JAMA.Image: © ppengcreative/Getty Images
About the Author
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch
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