Lung Cancer Screening Rates Low Among Present and Former Smokers

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Many individuals are higher risk for lung cancer do not get screened.
Many individuals are higher risk for lung cancer do not get screened.

(HealthDay News) -- Most current and former smokers in the United States don't get screened for lung cancer even though they're at increased risk for the disease, according to a research letter published online Feb. 2 in JAMA Oncology.

Researchers conducted an analysis of federal government data and found that the proportion of eligible current and former smokers who underwent lung cancer screening in the past 12 months remained low -- 3.3 percent in 2010 to 3.9 percent in 2015. The team calculated that of the 6.8 million current and former smokers eligible for lung cancer screening in 2015, only 262,700 received it.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography for people aged 55 to 80 with a 30-pack or more per year smoking history. Research suggests this could reduce lung cancer deaths in this group of patients by 20 percent, the study authors said. The findings highlight the need to educate doctors and at-risk patients about lung cancer screening.

"The reasons for the low uptake in screening are probably varied, and likely include lack of knowledge among both smokers and doctors as to screening recommendations, as well as access to high-quality screening," study leader Ahmedin Jemal, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, said in a Society news release. "Our previous study showed implementing quality screening broadly across the United States could prevent about 12,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the short term. But we cannot prevent those deaths until and unless we start educating eligible smokers as well as clinicians about the benefits and risks of screening, so patients can make an informed decision."

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