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Should You Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

December 20, 2019
You might be surprised to learn that even if you quit smoking 15 years ago, you still face an increased risk of lung cancer and should consider being screened for the disease. Dr. Mei Tang, medical oncologist and hematologist at the Malcolm and Sandra Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, explained who’s at a higher risk for lung cancer, what screening involves, and who should be screened.

“The number one risk factor for lung cancer is aging,” she said. “In the 1950's, we saw fewer cases of lung cancer because life expectancy was lower. Today, people are living longer and we’re seeing more cases in these older patients. Of course, the other important risk factors are smoking and chemical and asbestos exposure. If you have a 30 pack year history, are between the ages of 55 and 77, and in general good health, you should talk with doctor about being screened for lung cancer.”

(To calculate your number of pack years, multiply the number of packs you smoked per day by the number of years you smoked.)

Screening for people at high risk is done with a low dose CT scan to limit the exposure to radiation. If a potential tumor is found, there are a number of other diagnostic imaging tests that can be performed to gather more information, including an airway ultrasound, CT, CT/PET, and MRI scans.

Dr. Tang, who performs research in addition to treating patients, explained that lung cancer treatment has progressed significantly in the past decade thanks to patients who took part in a wide range of clinical trials for new approaches including immunotherapy and targeted therapy. If you’ve been diagnosed with lung and want to consider new treatments, GBMC is taking part in several clinical trials and has an experienced clinical trials team who can guide you.
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