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Lung cancer screening now recommended for heavy smokers and ex-smokers

lungcascreenUpstate offers the lung cancer screening that is now recommended annually for adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. The new recommendation comes from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of independent experts that advises U.S. policymakers.

The task force recommends low-dose computerized tomography scans be done every year until a person has been smoke-free for 15 years. The scans are not necessary for people whose life expectancy is limited, or whose health problems limit their willingness or ability to undergo lung surgery. The recommendation comes after a comprehensive review of medical evidence since 2004, showing the benefits of the low-dose CT scan outweigh the potential harms of overdiagnosis and increased exposure to radiation.

Upstate charges $235 for the screening, which includes reading and interpretation by a dedicated chest radiologist, a CD with the images for the patient, a letter to the patient's personal physician, free smoking cessation counseling and referrals to other medical professionals who are part of Upstate's thoracic oncology program if anything worrisome is detected.

Reuters explained in its news report that the task force "gave the screening a 'B' recommendation, meaning it is at least moderately certain that the benefits of the scans outweigh the harms. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to cover preventive services with a grade of "B" or higher."

Learn about lung cancer screening at Upstate, or call 1-800-464-8668

Read the clinical guidelines from the Annals of Internal Medicine

Read the Reuters news service report

Read the release from the Lung Cancer Alliance