The one thing that makes lung cancer one of the most lethal types of cancer is the fact that it’s hard to notice before it grows in size. But if you undertake lung screenings on a regular basis, you can see it in its early stages. Like most cancers, this one is also easier to cure in its early stages. Unfortunately, these screenings also have drawbacks. Because of the risks that screenings have, you need to understand that you should only undertake them if you have valid reasons to think that you might have cancer.
What Are Screenings?
Screenings are the type of tests that you undergo when you might potentially have a disease, but the symptoms are just not there. In case of lung cancer screenings, patients who are smokers should consider them. Smokers have 25% more chance of developing lung cancer than non-smokers. The people who are at risk of developing cancer can spot it early with these tests.
The screening used to detect lung cancer is called computed tomography (CT) scan. This test combines x-rays and a minor amount of radiation to create a more detailed image of your lungs. Small abnormalities in your lungs that can point out that you might have cancer are easy to notice with a CT scan.
The Risks of Screenings
With all of the benefits of CT screenings, there are also specific risks. Unfortunately one of the results of this test is a false positive. This type of result can lead to more unnecessary screenings and even surgeries. Also, this test is so detailed that it will discover the smallest of tumors. Sometimes these tumors are not harmful, but people undergo various treatments without knowing it. Furthermore, the radiation that is used during screenings can lead to cancer or even accelerate the development of an existing one. For people who aren’t in danger of developing this cancer, these screenings are just not necessary.
Who’s at Risk?
Even if there are risks of lung cancer in individual patients, lung screenings are not recommended for everyone. There are guidelines used by doctors to determine who should undergo a screening. The American Cancer Society recommends lung cancer screenings for all heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 74. Another recommendation made by this group is that doctors should also look at genetics. If lung cancer is present in certain families, their offspring have a bigger chance of developing this cancer. Thus they should seriously consider lung screenings.
So what’s the definition of a heavy smoker? According to experts, a heavy smoker is a person who smokes 30 or more pack-years for extended periods of your life. A pack-year means that you smoke one pack of cigarettes every day every year during your lifetime. If you smoke more than this, then you definitely should consider screening for lung cancer.
One screening won’t do the job every time. If you belong to the group which is at high risk of developing lung cancer, screenings are something you should do annually. If you have been a smoker all of your life, but you haven’t smoked for 10 or more years, you can stop with the screenings. Also, if you are older than 74, it might be good to end the screenings. In this fragile age, they could do more damage than good. Especially if the patient isn’t in good health. But before that, if you are at risk of developing this cancer, and match the criteria for lung screenings you should undergo one. Of course, it is also important to mention that you should consider your doctor’s opinion before deciding on a lung screening. Lung cancer can be treated if discovered in time, but it is lethal if it grows without being detected for too long.
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