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Focus on Cancer

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Screening for Lung Cancer

When it comes to lung cancer, the numbers are not good. More people in the U.S. die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer.

Consider these facts:
  • In 2011, more than 220,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer and more than 156,000 people will die of lung or bronchus cancer.
  • Smokers are 10 to 20 times more likely to get lung cancer. About 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking.
  • There are more than 94 million current or former smokers in the U.S.
  • Among both men and women in the United States, lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer, accounting for more deaths than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer combined.
Screening uses tests or exams to find a disease like cancer in people who don't have any symptoms. Because lung cancer often spreads beyond the lungs before it causes symptoms, a screening test that finds lung cancer early could save many lives.

In the past, no lung cancer screening test had been shown to lower the risk of dying from this disease. Studies involving spiral CT (or helical CT) have shown some promise in finding early lung cancers in heavy smokers and former smokers. So far, major medical groups have not recommended routine screening tests for all people or even for people at increased risk, such as smokers.

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