Should You Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

When you are a smoker, the threat of lung cancer is forever looming over you. If you do smoke, you should get yourself screened for this disease. Lung cancer screening is a process in which a test is conducted to detect lung cancer even when there is no history or symptoms of the disease. Healthcare professionals recommend a screening so that a disease can be found at its early stages. When the disease is diagnosed early, it can be treated more effectively and possibly even cured.

What type of lung cancer screening is available?

According to studies, lung cancer can be detected at its early stages with the help of low-dose spiral computed tomography scan. In a conventional chest x-ray, images of the lungs that are produced are 2-dimensional and flat. On the other hand, the entire volume of the lungs can be explored with a CT scan as a continuing series of images in a spiral around the chest area are produced. These x-ray images can be examined in a computer and reconstructed in 3D. What this does is provide highly detailed information about the volume and shape of spots of lung nodules or the lungs.

Who is required to be screened for lung cancer?

Lung cancer is recommended for people who fit the following criteria:

1. Current smokers who have a history of 30 pack years

2. Former smokers who have quit within the past fifteen years and also have a 30 pack year history

3. Current and former smokers who are aged between 55 and 80 years

4. Current and former smokers who are aged 50 and above with a history of 20 pack years and have had risk factors which include:

  • Radon exposure
  • Exposure to asbestos, silica, arsenic, cadmium, nickel, chromium, beryllium, arsenic and diesel fumes and other occupational carcinogens
  • History of lung cancer in the family
  • Cancer in the past
  • Pulmonary fibrosis or COPD

Even if you do not fit all the criteria mentioned above but have some of the risk factors, it is important to talk to your doctor about whether you should consider lung cancer screening.

What are the risks associated with lung cancer screening?

It is important to keep in mind that lung cancer screening, as well as those for other cancers, comes with a few risks. These risks include the following:

  • Over-diagnosis: A screening test for lung cancer can find cancer cases in which patients may never have experienced any problems. This is known as overdiagnosis. It can result in the patient receiving treatment that is not required.
  • False-positive result: With this test, there can be suggestion that there is lung cancer when the patient has no cancer at all. This is known as a false-positive result. This result can result in a patient undergoing unnecessary follow-up tests and surgery and may increase health risks.
  • Radiation: Radiation from low-dose spiral CT scans that are repeated can lead to exposure to radiation. This radiation can cause cancer in people who are otherwise healthy.

Lung cancer screening is only recommended for adults with a high risk of the disease because of their age and smoking history. If you think that you need to get screened, talk to your doctor first so that if he recommends it, you can be referred to a top treatment facility.