Doctors have made great progress in treating many forms of cancer. Diagnoses that were once death sentences can now be manageable illnesses. The key, as always, is early detection. Lung cancer, however, remains stubbornly difficult to treat. More Americans die of lung cancer than any other form of the disease. For
this reason, people with a history of smoking should get an annual CT scan of their lungs to look for early signs of trouble.
Should You Get Scanned?
* Between ages 50 and 80
* Have smoked at least one pack of cigarettes per day for at least 20 years
* Still smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years
The previous recommendations were for people over 55 who had smoked for at least 30 years.
Dramatically Lower Risk
The good news is that these CT scans could lower the risk of dying from lung cancer by up to 25%. The bad news is all too familiar: lack of health insurance to pay for these CT scans. The Affordable Care Act mandates that insurers pay for these screenings, without a copay. But, this does not help those without health insurance or those on certain Medicaid plans.
Not Without Risks Of Its Own
There is also the risk of false-positives, in which a benign lung nodule appears to be something worse. This can lead to cascading medical care, sometimes with
disastrous results. Repeating the CT scans could also lead to cancer since the scans use radiation. But, doctors consider this risk to be trivial in comparison to the damage done to the lungs by smoking.
Talk To Your Doctor
If you are or have been a smoker, talk to your doctor about getting an annual CT scan of your lungs. We lost 135,000 of our fellow citizens to lung cancer last year. That's way too many and anything that reduces that number is well worth doing.
If you find yourself unable to work due to lung cancer, or any other condition, let me know.