Failure to Timely Diagnose Lung Cancer

Almost all lung cancers are smoking related with 90% of lung cancer found in current and ex-smokers. Smoking has been promoted and glamorized in the United States for over 100 years. Doctors and dentists smoked and even recommended smoking specific brands. Cigarettes were part of K-rations given to U.S. solders until well into the 1970s. Cigarette companies paid filmmakers to include their brands in feature films, all working to make money by addicting people to the smoking habit. Smoking became part of life in the United States and millions of Americans became addicted. In recent years, smokers have received scorn by non-smokers, pushed out of many public places and often ignored or blamed for their own illness by members of the medical community. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer and accounts for 155,000 deaths of American each year.

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How Can Lung Cancer be Detected?

Lung cancer is often silent until it becomes advanced. Early detection is the key to survival. Lung cancer detection can be delayed:

  • If individuals who are high risk, such as long-time smokers and munition workers, do not undergo low-dose CT scanning according to medical guidelines.
  • By the failure of a radiologist to identify an abnormality on a chest imaging study done for other reasons.
  • By the failure of a physician to follow up on an abnormality reported by the radiologist on a chest imaging study.
  • By the failure of a physician to investigate symptoms that may indicate lung cancer, such as a persistent cough, recurring pneumonia or wheezing.

The most reliable way to detect lung cancer early is through screening of high risk individuals which allows an 85% survival rate.

Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines for Smokers.

In 2013, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that smokers in the general public who are over 55 with a 30 pack-year history (e.g. smoking a pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years) undergo annual lung cancer screening until they have stopped smoking for 15 years. Veterans are at even more risk and the guidelines recommend annual lung cancer screening for veterans who are over 50 and have a 20 pack-year history, because of their exposure to other carcinogens such as diesel fuel exhaust, agent orange, depleted uranium in weapons, radon and smoke from burning fuel depots and oil wells. Annual lung cancer screening in eligible smokers should continue for 15 years after smoking the last cigarette. Approximately 1,000,000 veterans who smoke are eligible for lung cancer screening but are not receiving annual low dose CT screening exams.

Lung Cancer Screening Criteria for Smokers

• Smokers over 55 with a 30 pack-year history who have smoked in the last 15 years.
• Veterans over 50 with a 20 pack-year history who have smoked in the last 15 years.

Screening Saves Lives

• Screening increases the chances of detecting lung cancers early when they are curable.
• A low dose CT scan is a quick, simple and effective test to find early lung cancers.
• The CT scan finds cancer in places missed with regular chest x-rays
• Low dose CT scanning for lung cancer is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.
• With the screening’s early detection, survival rates approach 85%. Without early detection, survival rates fall to 15%.