Lung cancer fact: Screening saves lives

October 31, 2013 | by

Lung cancer screening with low-dose radiation CT scanning saves lives.

“There’s no doubt about it. The studies clearly show that,” said Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of the Lung Cancer and Thoracic Oncology at City of Hope. “Lung cancer screening really has the potential to revolutionize and change the face of lung cancer from a disease that we can cure sometimes, to a disease we can cure most of the time.”

Without standard lung cancer screening, only about 15 percent of patients have their cancer detected at an early stage. In July, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force proposed annual screening, using low-dose CT (computed tomography) scans, for those at high risk of lung cancer. Studies predict that with screening, about 80 percent of lung cancers could be detected at Stage 1, when they're most easily treated.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, killing more than 150,000 each year, and nearly 90 percent of people who develop lung cancer die from the disease, in part because it's often not found until it's already advanced.

Screening has been proposed for:

  • Current or former smokers ages 55 to 74
  • Those with a smoking history of at least 30 pack years. A “pack year” means someone has smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes a day for a year. For example, someone could reach 30 pack years by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

A chest X-ray is not a suitable replacement for a CT scan, as it has not been proven effective for detecting cancer. Further, it’s important to choose a Lung Cancer Alliance recommended screening center – such as City of Hope.

These centers have shown to provide clear information on the risks and benefits of the screening, and to comply with best published practices for screening quality, radiation dose and diagnostic procedures. These centers also have a lung cancer multidisciplinary team, offer comprehensive smoking cessation, report the results to patients and their primary care doctors and are willing, as appropriate, to contribute to lung cancer research.

“If you catch your lung cancer early, you can be cured,” Raz said. “We can save so many lives in the United States and worldwide with lung cancer screening.

Patients interested in lung cancer screening can learn more about City of Hope’s lung cancer screening program online or by calling 800-826-HOPE.

In the video above, Raz explains why it matters where you're screened for lung cancer.