Lung Cancer Screening At HospitalsHospitals all over the country offer screening for lung cancer. According to the CDC, the choice to get screened should be an educated one.
Lung Cancer ScreeningLung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in America for both men and women. According to recent estimates, the lung cancer accounts for over 150,000 deaths each year, more than the next three leading causes (colon, breast, and pancreatic cancer) combined. This is a worrying phenomenon, undoubtedly precipitated by an individual's rate of tobacco smoking, as well as by factors related to air pollution, such as car exhaust, industrial emissions, and other emissions that can blanket cities in dense smog. It is a serious epidemic that has long-lasting effects on everyone diagnosed, even if the symptoms are identified early on. As a result, testing for lung cancer is very important. Many hospitals offer free screening, and it is highly advisable to go through screening if you are at risk.
Who is at risk?As with most serious diseases, many people would rather not admit that they are at risk for lung cancer. While understandable, this knee-jerk aversion must be stopped. Many people would greatly benefit from an early diagnosis, because modern medical techniques can greatly assist those who are diagnosed. According to the CDC, people with a heavy history of smoking who still continue to smoke should be tested at one of their local hospitals. This includes people who have stopped smoking within the last 15 years, as well as people between the ages of 55 and 80 who have smoked in the past. Heavy smoking is defined as 30 pack-years, or 30 years of smoking a pack a day.
Why shouldn't everyone be tested?With a disease as formidable as lung cancer, it might seem surprising that the CDC doesn't recommend that every American be tested. However, the test has its own risks, which can be severe and are, at any rate, grounds for caution. The first risk is a false-positive test result. A false-positive result occurs if the test indicates that the patient has the disease when in fact they do not. This sort of result can result in over-testing and even unnecessary surgery.
The second risk is the over-diagnosis of lung cancer, which occurs when the patient has lung cancer, but the tumor is completely benign and will not cause the patient any problems. These cases often result in unnecessary treatments.
Finally, there is the issue of radiation exposure. The only test recommended by the CDC is called "low-dose computed tomography," or a CT scan. A CT scan involves an X-ray machine that uses low doses of radiation to take pictures of the lungs. The radiation from a CT scan can cause cancer, even in healthy people, if the test is repeated too often. For these reasons, medical professionals only recommend that people commit to regular screenings if they are at risk. Be sure to look for hospitals that follow the CDC's recommended practices.
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