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Is a lung cancer screening right for you?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. Unfortunately, Kentucky is home to the highest incidence and death rate from lung cancer in the country, driven largely by our high smoking rates. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 4,900 Kentuckians will be diagnosed with a lung cancer in 2020, with more than 2,910 succumbing to the disease. The five-year survival rate of people diagnosed with lung cancer in Kentucky is lower than the national average. 

While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent lung cancer, you can reduce your risk significantly by avoiding or quitting smoking. According to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, 24% of Kentucky adults smoke, which is significantly higher than the national average of 13.7%. Other ways to help prevent cancer include avoiding secondhand smoke, testing your home for radon, eating a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables and exercising regularly.

If you are or were a smoker, you might be eligible for lung cancer screening, which can detect cancer at an early and more treatable stage. The only current recommended screening test for lung cancer is a low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT). In this test, an X-ray machine scans the body using low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs. 

Lung cancer screening is recommended for adults who have no symptoms, but who are at high risk for developing lung cancer because of their smoking history and age. To be eligible for CT screenings, patients must be between 55 and 80, and be current or former smokers (who have quit within the past 15 years) with at least a 30 pack-year smoking history. A pack-year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 30 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

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