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Panel Confirms Lung Cancer Screening Recommendations

Following proposed guidelines for lung cancer screening, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has officially provided its recommendations for screening individuals considered to be at a high risk of developing lung cancer.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of deaths from cancer worldwide. Since it does not cause any symptoms until it is advanced, lung cancer is typically not diagnosed until it is already in late stages.

If lung cancer can be detected prior to spread from the lung, the potential for cure or even long-term survival increases dramatically. Therefore, an effective measure in which to screen people who are at a high risk of developing lung cancer is necessary to detect the disease early and ultimately reduce deaths associated with lung cancer.

The USPSTF is a governing medical body that provides recommendations for preventive services in healthcare in the United States based upon evidence-based data. Members of the USPSTF take into consideration both the benefits and harms that could potentially be associated with screening measures. Although it is not required that healthcare providers follow the recommendations of the USPSTF, physicians often take the guidelines into consideration as they provide patient care.

The recommendations are the following: “The USPSTF recommends annual screening for lung cancer with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years or develops a health problem that substantially limits life expectancy or the ability or willingness to have curative lung surgery.”

These guidelines have been derived from large clinical trials demonstrating a significant survival benefit among individuals who underwent the proposed screening for lung cancer.

Patients who are smokers, or those who have quit within the past 15 years, should speak with their physician regarding their potential risks and benefits of these screening guidelines.

Reference: United States Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Lung Cancer. Available at: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf13/lungcan/lungcanfinalrs.htm. Accessed January 2014.