Physician assistant Leanne Owens knew it, and recommended that 68-year-old Knowles of Durham undergo a spiral computed tomography (CT) scan. Studies show it’s more effective at finding lung cancer in heavy smokers earlier than a chest x ray. That’s important because lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. Most cases are caused by smoking. The earlier it’s found, the easier it is to treat.
Lung cancer screening is recommended for anyone between the ages of 55 and 80 who are either current smokers or quit within the past 15 years and have at minimum 30 “pack years” or more smoking history; one pack-a-day for 30 years or two packs-a-day for 15 years. Duke thoracic surgeon Dr. Betty Tong, MD, said patients referred for early screening also have to be asymptomatic, and well enough to undergo potential treatment.
“Unlike mammography or colon cancer screening, lung cancer screening requires a shared decision making visit in advance,” she explained.