Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer
Almost all lung cancers are smoking related, with 90% of lung cancer found in current and ex-smokers. Smoking was promoted and glamorized in the United States for over 100 years. Doctors and dentists smoked and even recommended smoking specific brands. Cigarettes were even given as part of K-rations given to U.S. solders through the 1970s. As smoking became a money maker for big tobacco, a national smoking addiction grew. As a result, 155,000 Americans die annually from lung cancer, with hundreds of thousands more suffering from emphysema, heart and cardiovascular disease, and whose addiction prevents stopping. Smokers are the one politically acceptable group to discriminate against, and they have been pushed out of public places and are even blamed for their own illnesses. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer because most lung cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Doctors now have an effective screening tool to save over 24,000 lung cancer deaths a year. When diagnosed early, lung cancer is often curable.
Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines for Smokers.
The new 2021 U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) lung cancer screening guidelines recommend that smokers who are over 50 years old with a 20 pack-year history undergo annual lung cancer screening until they have stopped smoking for 15 years. A pack-year is the number of packs smoked a day times the number of years smoked. The risk of lung cancer does not go down until after 15 years after smoking the last cigarette. These new lung cancer screening guidelines are estimated to prevent 24,000 deaths from lung cancer a year. You qualify if you:
- Age >50
- Have a 20 pack-year smoking history or longer
- Have smoked within the last 15 years
Unfortunately, only 14% of eligible smokers are getting screened for lung cancer. Over 20,000 people die of lung cancer each year who could be saved if lung cancer screening were widely implemented.
How Can Lung Cancer be Detected?
Lung cancer is often silent until it becomes advanced and that is why early detection is the key to survival. Lung cancer detection can be delayed:
- If individuals who are high risk are not screened annually.
- If a radiologist fails to identify an abnormality on a chest x-ray.
- If a physician fails to follow up on an abnormality reported on a chest x-ray.
- If a physician fails to investigate a symptom of lung cancer, such as a persistent cough, recurring pneumonia or wheezing.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: the most reliable way to detect lung cancer early is screening high-risk individuals. Early cancers detected through screening have an 85% cure rate.
Remember: Screening Saves Lives
- Screening usually finds lung cancers early when they are curable.
- A low-dose CT scan is a quick and effective test to find early lung cancers.
- CT scans find cancer in places missed with regular chest x-rays
- Lung cancer screening is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.
- Early treatment results approach an 85% cure rate.