WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the United States. It’s to blame for nearly one in four cancer deaths. Many of those deaths are the result of patients not getting screened in a timely manner.
The American Cancer Society estimates more than 130,000 Americans will die this year from lung cancer. But there is hope that troubling statistics can be lowered thanks to a change in screening guidelines.
Lung cancer screenings increase the chance of finding lung cancer in its earliest, most curable stage. But some of the most vulnerable people aren’t getting screened.
“There is higher likelihood of diagnosis of cancer particularly in black men and there is a much lower survivability,” said Dr. Victor Waters, MD, volunteer medical spokesperson, American Lung Association.
Lung cancer screenings are also lacking among black and non-black women alike. But recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force approved revised screening guidelines.
“So, the new guidelines have expanded, actually doubled, the number of Black Americans and women to be eligible to receive what we call the low dose CT scan,” said Dr. Waters.
Low-Dose Computed Tomography Screenings (LDCT) are done with a specialized scanner. It uses 75 percent less radiation than a traditional CT scan and only takes a few minutes to get detailed images of your lungs.
Dr. Waters says the annual screenings are now eligible for more people and covered by insurance carriers including medicare.
“Cost is a factor and has been a barrier. The fact is in particularly poor communities, cannot afford the low dose CT scan screening procedure,” Dr. Waters explained.
The updated guidelines lower the age of screening eligibility from 55 to 50 and lower the smoking habit of a pack per day from 30 years to 20 years.
The doctor believes these new guidelines will save lives. Dr. Waters says, “That’s a great question. I think it potentially can be thousands. Thousands of lives and that all depends on the knowledge, particularly in the community of color, and encouragement and trust that we have to build with the community to get the test.”
The American Lung Association calls the updated guidelines an important step forward in addressing racial disparities associated with lunch cancer.
For more information click here to learn more about new guidelines and to see if you qualify for a screening.