Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths for both women and men, with 3,660 new diagnoses in Louisiana estimated in 2018 alone. However, there’s a new opportunity to turn the tide against this deadly disease through the newly available lung cancer screening, which helps diagnose the disease in the earliest stages when it’s most curable. During Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association highlights that awareness of lung cancer is more important than ever, as the lifesaving lung cancer screening has the potential to save thousands of lives.
“Screening for the disease can make all the difference, and if lung cancer is caught before it spreads, the likelihood of surviving five years or more improves to 56 percent,” said American Lung Association Division Senior Director of State Advocacy Lance Boucher. “We must ensure that people are aware of lung cancer and its risk factors and speak with their doctor if they’re concerned about their risk.”
According to the Lung Association, if the eight million Americans eligible were screened, an estimated 25,000 lives would be saved. While screening is available at no cost through Medicare and most insurance plans, less than five percent of those eligible are currently getting screened. Screening is recommended for those who meet the following criteria:
Are between the ages of 55-80 and currently smoke, or quit within the last 15 years, and smoked the equivalent of 30 “pack years” (One pack a day for 30 years, two packs for 15 years, etc.)
Through its LUNG FORCE initiative, the American Lung Association works to raise awareness of this new screening, including through a partnership with the Ad Council in the first-of-its-kind public awareness campaign “Saved By The Scan.” The campaign encourages current and former smokers to talk to their doctor about their risk and take an online eligibility quiz at SavedByTheScan.org/quiz. The “Saved By The Scan” eligibility quiz has helped more than 137,000 Americans learn about their risk for lung cancer.
Since lung cancer screening is relatively new, to ensure that everyone eligible not only knows about screening but also has access to screening, the Lung Association has partnered with the American Thoracic Society to launch the Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide. The Guide helps community hospitals and healthcare systems implement lung cancer screening programs, which will encourage access to lifesaving screening for those who qualify, regardless of where they live.
“We want to make sure that everyone who qualifies for screening knows it’s an option, and that they can access screening in their communities,” said Boucher. “We’re at a pivotal moment in addressing this disease, and we’re working to spread the word about screening as it is literally lifesaving for so many people.”
Even with the promise of screening, the Lung Association also continues to push for better treatment options and new methods of early detection for the disease, noting that screening is currently recommended only for select current and former smokers, yet there are a variety of risk factors associated with lung cancer, including exposure to radon gas, secondhand smoke and air pollution as well as genetic factors and sometimes the causes of lung cancer are unknown.
“To ultimately defeat lung cancer, we need to address all risk factors and continue to invest in lung cancer research funding,” said Boucher. “Since 2014, the Lung Association’s investment in lung cancer research has increased by 160 percent, and we’re going to continue pushing for more research, advancements and awareness until lung cancer is a thing of the past.”
Visit Lung.org/lung-cancer to learn more about lung cancer.