Finally, a national agency is coming out with study results that seem to suggest it might be good to screen smokers and former smokers for lung cancer.
The National Cancer Institute yesterday announced that conducting regular low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans to screen for lung cancer on heavy smokers and former smokers resulted in 20 percent fewer deaths from lung cancer than those who received conventional chest X-ray.
Bonus result: deaths from all causes (such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, etc.—but including lung cancer) were 7 percent lower than those who were X-rayed.
The study, called the National Lung Screening Trial, was designed to compare CT screening with chest X-ray (which has long been thought not to be an effective way to screen for lung cancer).
The data still have to be examined further and put through peer-review; some researchers are concerned about the negative effects of the CT scans themselves.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. by a long shot for both men and women. Many folks believe more women die of breast cancer. More women are diagnosed with breast cancer: while 255,000 women were estimated to have been diagnosed last year with breast cancer, 40,000 of those cases were fatal. With lung cancer, about 106,000 women are expected to be diagnosed this year, while 71,000 women will die. Lung cancer has one of the lowest cure-rates in cancer treatment because it’s difficult to diagnose early—which is the reason scientists have been looking for a good screening tool.
And yet lung cancer is the single most preventable form of cancer death. The addiction to nicotine has to be stopped. What that takes is asking for help.
(You know that little pink ribbon for breast cancer? My dream is to have one for addiction. Awareness helps people to get help.)
I’ve written about this before, about my old friend the longtime alcoholic and drug addict who saved quitting smoking for last. He had an active 12-step program in place, which has since morphed into a Buddhist recovery program. Within six weeks, his physician’s nurse had tapered him off his nicotine program and he was entirely drug-free.
In case anyone needs an extra bit of motivation, or is curious: Came across this interesting slide-show called “Surprising Ways Smoking Affects Your Looks and Life.” The split photos of twins are especially cool—they so clearly show the effects of the myriad chemicals in cigarettes on the skin, eyes, teeth, and hair. They also illustrate how dangerous smoking is for nonsmokers exposed to smoke.
Also found these statistics appealing: I’d always known there are at least 80 million smokers and former smokers in the U.S. They broke it down: 45 million Americans smoke, and 48 million have quit.
Finally: A maximum of only 7 percent could do it without help.