A cancer expert in Nebraska is applauding a new federal report that recommends screening people who are at high-risk for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans.
Dr. Alissa Marr, a lung cancer physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, says the scans could prevent a substantial number of deaths.
Dr. Marr says, “By screening in this high risk population, you get about a 20% decrease in lung cancer mortality rates which is a significant amount when you look at how common lung cancer is.”
Lung cancer is the #1 cause of cancer deaths in both women and men in Nebraska and nationwide. In women, it causes more deaths than breast and ovarian cancer combined.
The draft report is from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Public comments will be taken on the report through August 26th, when a final recommendation on the use of CT scans will be made.
Marr says, “If they make a recommendation to start doing screening, probably the biggest benefit we’ll see is that insurance companies really should start paying for it.”
Smoking is the top risk factor for developing lung cancer, resulting in about 85% of lung cancer cases nationwide. The risk for developing lung cancer also increases with age, with most lung cancers occurring in people age 55 and older.
The more you smoke over time, the more at risk you are for lung cancer, so Marr says these proposed CT scans could save lives.
“This is the first, really large-scale trial that’s shown some benefit to doing lung cancer screening,” Marr says. “I think there’s still a lot of details that still need to be worked out. This is the right thing to do to get public comment and that before they make their official final recommendation.”
Nearly nine in ten people who develop lung cancer will die from the disease, in part, because it’s often not found until it’s advanced. By screening those at high risk, lung cancer in earlier stages is more likely to be treatable.