Lung cancer kills more people each year than any other form of cancer. However, a recent medical study found that one screening procedure for those who are at the most risk for lung cancer could be helpful in catching lung cancer in its early stages.
The National Cancer Institute recently released the initial results of its National Lung Cancer Screening Trial that showed that the mortality rate for those at the most risk for lung cancer could be reduced by 20 percent with the help of regular screening using low-dose CT scans - a diagnostic procedure that produces detailed three-dimensional images of the body.
The ongoing study examined the effectiveness of both chest X-rays and CT scans used for screening in current and former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74. Screening using chest X-rays was not proven to reduce mortality rates in the individuals being studied, yet it was shown that CT scans had the ability to detect tumors at earlier stages.
The results are consistent with previous findings by The Mount Sinai Medical Center physician Dr. Claudia Henschke. Her findings have shown that annual screening with CT scans could help detect lung cancer in its early and more treatable stages, data that were corroborated by the NCI study.
"The NCI findings confirm what our researchers have believed for quite some time - those at the most risk for lung cancer should talk to their physicians about a low-dose CT lung screening," says Dr. Raja Flores, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at The Mount Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Flores notes that 60 other medical sites across the world follow Mount Sinai's lung cancer screening CT scans are not recommended for those who aren't at high risk for lung cancer. But the prospect of early detection makes lung cancer screening a good option for those who are at high risk, says Flores.
So who should contact their doctors about CT scan screening? The Mount Sinai Medical Center recommends that current and former smokers older than 40 with a smoking history of at least a pack a day for 10 years or more ask their doctor whether screening would be a good option for them.
To take a CT scan, the patient lies still on a table connected to the CT scanner. The CT machine is shaped like a doughnut and the table simply slides through the doughnut in 20 seconds. No injections or medications are needed.
While those at the most risk for lung cancer should get screened, those who aren't at high risk should take the following precautions to avoid developing lung cancer:
* Don't smoke and if you do, quit. Smoking accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
* Avoid places where people are smoking, as exposure to secondhand smoke can also lead to lung cancer.
* Test your home for radon gases and asbestos. Have these substances removed if they are in the home.
* Do not work in a place with exposed asbestos.
For information on lung cancer, prevention and treatment options, visit www.mountsinai.org/lungscreening.