A panel of experts has recommended that heavy smokers receive an annual computed tomography (CT) scan to screen for lung cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says current and former smokers ages 55 to 80 who have smoked at least 30 “pack-years” should undergo the scans. A pack-year is determined by multiplying the number of packs smoked daily by the number of years a person has smoked.
“Studies have shown that when we diagnose lung cancer early, we have a better chance of curing it,” says F. Michael Caldwell, MD, internal medicine physician at Physicians Park Primary Care. “The study panel has concluded that the benefits of CT scans for these high-risk smokers or former smokers outweigh the risks of CT scans because we can more easily identify lung cancer.”
About 160,000 people die each year from lung cancer. The panel determined that 20,000 of those deaths could be prevented with annual CT scans.