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2023 Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines: Top Facts You Should Know

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Did you know that lung cancer is the third most common type of cancer and the leading cause of cancer death? Despite many advances in care, this devastating disease continues to have a significant impact on patients and their families. Learn the importance of early detection through screening.

Lung cancer statistics: A closer look

  • Lung cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, following skin cancer and breast cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
  • In 2023, 238,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer.
  • Each year, about 127,000 American lives are lost to lung cancer.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide for both men and women.

Smoking: The greatest risk factor

Smoking remains the greatest risk factor for developing lung cancer. Approximately 85% of all lung cancers can be attributed to a history of smoking. This relationship was first described by Dr. Alton Ochsner, one of Ochsner's founding fathers, in 1939. His groundbreaking research highlighted the detrimental effects of smoking on lung health.

At Ochsner, we are committed to assisting our community in smoking cessation. We offer appointments to our smoking cessation clinics throughout the region and virtually, making it convenient for you.

Lung cancer screening: An effective tool

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that people between the ages of 50 and 80 who have a history of smoking at least 20 packs a year should get a special type of CT scan every year. This scan is called a low-dose computed tomography scan and takes about three minutes to complete.

There's even a special day dedicated to reminding people to get tested for lung cancer. It's called National Lung Cancer Screening Day, and it's on Nov. 11.

Remember, while these guidelines provide a general rule, you should always make health decisions in consultation with your doctor or healthcare provider.

History of lung cancer screenings

To combat the high death rates associated with lung cancer, researchers conducted The National Lung Screening Trial from 2003 to 2004. This trial enrolled over 50,000 high-risk patients with a significant smoking history to determine if lung cancer screening with a chest X-ray versus a low-dose CT scan could prevent deaths from the disease. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August 2011, shed light on the effectiveness of a low dose CT scan to be the best screening tools to detect lung cancer at an early stage.

The study proved that chest X-rays missed early lung cancer and that patients who underwent a low-dose CT scan and were diagnosed with lung cancer experienced a 20% reduction in death rates.

Risks associated with CT scans

While CT scans are an important tool in detecting lung cancer, it is essential to understand the associated risks. Here are some key points to consider:

  • CT scans expose patients to a low dose of radiation, equivalent to approximately half the natural environmental exposure over a one-year period.
  • False-positive results are relatively common due to the formation of benign granulomas or spots on the lungs. In Ochsner's screening program, around 50% of patients have small nodules that are most likely benign and not cancerous.
  • Approximately 3% to 5% of all detected nodules are proven to be lung cancer.
  • CT scans may also reveal other disease processes, such as emphysema or coronary artery calcification.

Managing suspicious nodules

When a suspicious nodule is detected during a CT scan, further evaluation and management are necessary. The size of the nodule plays a crucial role in determining the best course of action. Here are some potential options:

  1. Regular check-ups: Your doctor may recommend additional CT scans over a two-year period to keep an eye on smaller nodules that are less than 8 millimeters in size.
  2. Tissue sample: In some cases, a biopsy may be performed to take a small sample of the nodule for further analysis. This helps the doctors understand if the nodule is cancerous or not.
  3. Minimally invasive robotic assisted Surgery: If the nodules are larger and could potentially be early stage lung cancer, surgery may be recommended to remove them.

The importance of screening for high-risk patients

Screening for lung cancer in high-risk patients has been shown to dramatically improve survival rates. An estimated 14 million Americans qualify as high risk and should receive annual screenings. Discovering lung cancer at its earliest stage before symptoms develop allows for earlier treatment and potential for cure and long-term survival.

At Ochsner, we understand the importance of early detection and have established lung cancer multi-disciplinary teams. These teams consist of nurses, surgeons, pulmonologists, oncologists, and radiologists who work closely to review all suspicious nodules and provide comprehensive care to our patients. We offer the most advanced technologies from diagnosis to treatment in the region.

Lung cancer: Fighting for a better future

Lung cancer and smoking remains a significant public health concern, but through awareness, early detection, and advancements in treatments, we have made progress in fighting these diseases. By making your health a priority, Ochsner is committed to embracing screening options while helping you quit smoking. These are important steps toward saving lives and improving outcomes for individuals affected by lung cancer.

If you or someone you know is at high risk for lung cancer, we urge you to reach out to your healthcare provider and discuss the benefits of screening. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those impacted by this devastating disease.

Are you:

  1. Between the age of 50-80?
  2. Current or former smoker who smoked/smokes at least a pack a day for 20 years?
  3. If you are a former smoker, have you quit in the past 15 years?
  4. Willing and healthy enough to undergo biopsy and treatment?
  5. Then please call 504-842-LUNG

Schedule an appointment with Ochsner’s lung cancer team today

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