(NewsUSA) - Lung cancer is the nation's leading cancer killer, expected to claim more than 142,000 lives this year alone. That is more than the lives lost due to breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.
Doctors and patient groups say it doesn't have to stay this way.
"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women. Finally, we have a screening exam that will make a major impact and change the face of lung cancer for the future to a survivable cancer, not a death sentence," says Ella Kazerooni, MD, MS, chair of the National Lung Cancer Roundtable and Professor of Radiology and Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan.
Screening older current and former smokers each year with low-dose computed tomography or "CAT" scans is a cost-effective system proven to significantly reduce lung cancer deaths.
CT lung cancer screening exams for high-risk individuals are recommended by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the National Lung Cancer Roundtable, The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer and many other medical and scientific organizations.
"After decades of having little to offer adults at high risk for lung cancer, we've entered a new era where we now have evidence that lung cancer screening saves lives, and new targeted therapies and immunotherapy are offering new hope to patients diagnosed with advanced lung cancer," says Richard Wender, MD, Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society.
"CT lung cancer screening is a game changer. We finally have a weapon to fight back against this terrible disease - if patients who need this screening get tested," says Debra Dyer, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology Lung Cancer Screening 2.0 Committee.
"Most lung cancers are not diagnosed until it is too late. This screening provides critical early detection that saves lives," says Carolyn Aldigé, founder and chief executive officer of the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
Insurance companies cover these exams with no copay for people 55-80 years of age with a history of heavy smoking who are current or former smokers. Medicare ends coverage at age 77. If you were a heavy smoker, meet the age specifications and stopped tobacco use in the last 15 years, you are covered.
However, unlike breast and colon cancer screening, if you are covered by Medicare, your health care provider must discuss the risk and benefits of a lung cancer screening CT exam with you during a "shared-decision making visit" before ordering your first screening CT.
Lung cancer care advocates urge those who think lung cancer screening can help them or a loved one to have that conversation with their doctor.
"Lung cancer screening is a proven, valuable tool in finding the number-one cancer killer at its most treatable, and even curable, stage," says Laurie Fenton Ambrose, Co-Founder of the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer.
Source: National Lung Cancer Roundtable (NLCRT.org)