The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, of which Mayo Clinic is a partner, is announcing a preliminary recommendation that people at high risk for lung cancer consider having annual low-dose CT scans. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer, resulting in 85 percent of the lung cancers in the United States, and high-risk individuals are those 55 to 80 years old with a “30 pack year or greater smoking history.” That can translate as someone who has smoked a pack a day for 30 years or someone who smoked two packs a day for 15 years.
Results of the National Lung Screening Trial, published in the fall of 2011, suggested that smokers and former smokers might benefit from lung CT scan screening. It found a 20 percent reduction in lung cancer deaths with CT scan screening. Federal agencies and medical professionals have been discussing the findings ever since. Mayo Clinic took part in that trial, and thoracic surgeon Stephen Cassivi, M.D., calls today’s announcement a mandate that will certainly save lives.