Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Annual Lung Cancer Screenings Approved for Older Smokers

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the US. But up until recently, no screening methods had been deemed successful in detecting lung cancer at earlier stages. That all changed early this year, when the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that individuals with specific risk factors (see below) be screened annually after a study showed that low-dose CT scans can reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent in high-risk patients.

“Lung cancer kills more people annually than prostate, breast and colon cancers combined,” says Alicia McKelvey, MD, Main Line Health thoracic surgeon. “Prostate, breast and colon cancer all have well established and useful screening tests. Now, we have the potential to reduce deaths from lung cancer through early diagnosis, using screening CT’s.”

The low-dose CT scan of the lungs allows potential tumors to be diagnosed earlier, which increases the likelihood of a long-term cure. Although the radiation used during the screenings presents a small risk, the benefits far outweigh any potential consequences.

"It’s important to use low dose screening CT's for lung cancer in the appropriate patients," says Dr. McKelvey.

What determines a high-risk patient?
• Smokers between ages 55-74 who have a 30-pack year history (1 pack per day for 30 years) or more
• Those who have quit within the past 15 years
• Patients with a prior history of cancer or exposure to known lung carcinogens

If you fall into these categories, Dr. McKelvey recommends talking to your primary care doctor about getting screened. 

Although lung cancer screening will help detect lung cancer earlier, the truth remains that the most effective way to avoid a lung cancer diagnosis is to never start smoking. To learn more about Main Line Health’s smoking cessation classes, visit

About MLH

Founded in 1985, Main Line Health (MLH) is a not-for-profit health system serving portions of Philadelphia and its western suburbs. At its core are four of the region’s respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation’s premier facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital; Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; and Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, a home health service. Main Line Health also consists of Main Line HealthCare, one of the region’s largest multi-specialty physician networks, and the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a non-profit biomedical research organization located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center. Main Line Health also consists of four outpatient health centers located in Broomall, Collegeville, Exton and Newtown Square. Main Line Health hospitals, with more than 10,000 employees and 2,000 physicians, are the recipients of numerous awards for quality care and service, including recognition among Truven Health Analytics’ list of Top 100 Hospitals and top 20 percent of health systems in the nation, and Magnet®, the nation’s highest honor for nursing excellence. Main Line Health is among the area’s leaders in medicine, providing advanced patient-centered care, education and research to help our community stay healthy.

Mary Kate Coghlan
Communications Specialist

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