MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – In the United States, lung cancer is the second most common cancer. It’s also the leading cause of death from cancer. If lung cancer is found at an earlier stage, when it is small and before it has spread, it is more likely to be treated successfully, according to experts at Intermountain Health.

Lung cancer screening is recommended for certain people who smoke or used to smoke, but who don’t have any signs or symptoms.

“If a person has lung cancer but doesn’t have any symptoms, this usually means there’s a chance to detect the disease early,” said Timothy Leclair, an interventional pulmonologist at Intermountain Health.

“Usually, symptoms of lung cancer don’t appear until the disease is already at an advanced stage. Even when lung cancer does cause symptoms, many people may mistake them for other problems, such as an infection or long-term effects from smoking. This may delay the diagnosis,” said Dr. Leclair.

The US Preventive Services Task Force, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American College of Chest Physicians recommend yearly lung cancer screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) scan scans for people who:

– Are 50 to 80 years old and in fairly good health, and currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years,
and have at least a 20 pack-year smoking history. (This is the number of packs of cigarettes per day multiplied by the number of years smoked. For example, someone who smoked 2 packs a day for 10 years [2 x 10 = 20] has 20 pack-years of smoking, as does a person who smoked 1 pack a day for 20 years [1 x 20 = 20].)

In addition, it’s important that people who are going to be screened:

– Receive counseling to quit smoking if they currently smoke, and have been told by their doctor about the possible benefits, limits, and harms of screening with LDCT scans, and can go to a center that has experience in lung cancer screening and treatment.

If you have symptoms that could be from lung cancer, see your doctor right away. People who already have symptoms that might be from lung cancer may need tests such as CT scans to find the cause, which in some cases may be cancer. But this kind of testing is for diagnosis and is not the same as screening.

“If you are at higher risk for lung cancer, your doctor can explain your risk and how lung cancer screening might apply to you. Your doctor can also talk with you about what happens during screening and the best places to get the yearly screening test,” noted Dr. Leclair.

Lung cancer screening is covered by Medicare and by many private health insurance plans. Dr. Leclair said your health care team can help you find out if your insurance will provide coverage.

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Sponsored by Intermountain Health.