Lung Cancer Screening – Who Can Take it and Risks Involved

Lung Cancer Screening Banners

A screening test is generally done to detect any potential health disorders or diseases in people who do not exhibit any symptoms of the disease. The main reason why I would recommend this is that early detection, lifestyle changes or surveillance, to reduce the risk of disease, or to detect it early enough so that it can be treated in a much more effective and efficient manner by us.

The only screening test that I would urge you to go for to detect lung cancer early is low-dose computed tomography (also called low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). During this scan, you are made to lie down on a table and an X-ray machine uses a low dose or amount of radiation to make detailed images of your lung. Personally, I don’t think you will face any problems during this scan as it takes just a few minutes and is painless.

Usually, the symptoms of lung cancer do not appear until the disease is already at an advanced stage. I have also come across a few cases where when lung cancer was showing symptoms, people had it mistaken for other problems like infection or long-term effects from smoking. This may cause further delay in the diagnosis.

Who should be screened for lung cancer?

  • Has had a 20 pack-year or more smoking history. This means has smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.
  • If they currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
  • Are generally between the age of 50 to 80 years old.

Read on – Does cancer run in families?

Risks of Screening for Lung Cancer

Though it is generally regarded as a safe way of detecting cancer, it might have some downsides to it as well, like:

  • There have been cases noticed in which the lung cancer screening test can find cancer that may never have caused a problem for the patient. This is called overdiagnosis. This can lead to treatment that is not at all needed.
  • A lung cancer screening test can suggest that a person has lung cancer even when no cancer is present. This is called a false-positive result. These generally lead to follow-up tests and surgeries that are not required and may cause more risks.
  • Radiation from repeated LDCT tests can cause cancer in otherwise healthy people.

These tests can be stopped when a person turns 81 years old or hasn’t smoked for the past 15 years or more. As a doctor, I would recommend you to be very cautious while making this decision as keep consulting your doctor, every step of the way.

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