Most Important Things about the New Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines
Lung cancer has become the highest cancer killer in recent years. Many of the deaths could have been prevented if patients had been screened sooner and found cancer in its earliest stages. With the changes in the guidelines for lung cancer screening, there are better opportunities for diagnosing and prevention.
What is lung cancer?
The lungs are similar to sponges in your chest cavity. The sections of the lungs are called lobes with the left lung having two and the right having three. The left lung is smaller than the right because the heart exists in the same area of the chest. Lung cancer starts in the bronchi, which are the small branches that connect the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs. Cancer begins within the cell lining, growing uncontrollably, and starts to spread making its way into the lungs.
Types of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer has two main types, Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and Small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Up to 85% in NSCLC, which has three different subtypes. The lung types differ because the prognosis and treatment are similar to one another. The subtypes are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
Up to 15% of lung cancer is SCLC. The cancer is sometimes referred to as oat cell cancer because the cell shows up as small and flat when viewed under a microscope. This cancer grows quicker and spreads itself faster than NSCLC. Approximately 70% of patients with SCLC are diagnosed when cancer has already spread to other areas.
New guidelines help in early diagnosis
The new guidelines have opened the door to finding cancer sooner than before. The guidelines for lung cancer screening from the CDC are:
- 50–80 years of age
- Have a 20-pack-year history of smoking (this means 1 pack a day for 20 years, 2 packs a day for 10 years, etc.)
- Are a current smoker, or have quit within the last 15 years
Medical insurance plans have begun adjusting for the new guidelines but check with your insurance before getting a screening.
For more information visit American Lung Association at lung.org.