LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – For the third time ever, the American Cancer Society updated its guidelines for lung cancer screenings.
The first set of guidelines came out a little over a decade ago. So what changes are we seeing now?
“If you’ve quit smoking even more than 15 years ago you still may be at risk for lung cancer and you should really now talk to your clinician,” Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said.
That along with being in the 50-80 age range who smokes or used to smoke. Also, you qualify for a screening if you have a 20-year or greater pack-year history.
Pack years are calculated by the number of cigarettes smoked a day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked.
So if someone smokes ten cigarettes a day (1/2 pack) over ten years, that would equal five pack years. The higher the pack-years, the more likely a smoker will have health issues.
“Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in this country. One out of five people who die from cancer die from lung cancer,” Dr. Tracy DeGreen, a physician at Lancaster Cancer Center, said.
It can be difficult to detect lung cancer until it gets to an advanced stage.
“The main issue is that lung cancer does not cause symptoms until it is stage 3 or stage 4 cancer,” Dr. Navdeep Brar, the medical director of pulmonary at UPMC Harrisburg, said.
However, medical advancements may spark more changes in the future to add to the current guidelines.
“Right now there’s a lot of research happening in the biomarker world, getting a blood test to see if you have cancer. I think that world really will come to light in five years,” Dr. Galiatsatos said.
Dr. Galiatsatos also says lung cancer screenings in patients who have never smoked may become a reality.
For now, healthcare professionals will follow the guidelines. The guidelines are not technically rules so people with unique cases may be considered for a screening.
“Hopefully it will help us save more lives from lung cancer,” Dr. Brar said.
If you or someone you know needs help to quit smoking, click here.