Why Screen?

March 22, 2021

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Anchor lead: What are the benefits of CT screening for smokers? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Those who’ve smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years or more should have low dose CT scans to screen them for lung cancer, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, says they also assess the impact of screening on lung cancer.

Nelson: The benefits of screening they actually can estimate for you. There’s a 20 to 25% decrease in cancer deaths among people who get screened. The harms potentially of screening is that you see false positives, you see something on the scan that isn’t cancer that leads you to do something, in somewhere on the order of 25 to 30% of the first CT scan that you get, invasive procedures in about 1.7% of everyone who gets screened, so that’s the tradeoff. The US Preventive Services Task Force believes that that tradeoff is worth it and it’s worth it to extend this benefit to people who haven’t smoked quite as much.  :31

Nelson notes that such CT scanning is quick and widely available, so those with a smoking history that meets or exceeds the standard should definitely be screened. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.

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