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Lung Cancer Information for Health Care Providers

Early Detection Means It’s a Promising Time for Lung Cancer

Photo of Dr. Lisa Richardson

In this CDC Expert Commentary on Medscape, Dr. Lisa Richardson explains that early detection by screening is an important strategy for patients with a high risk for lung cancer. (Free registration required.)

You can play a key role in reducing the burden of lung cancer, the number one cause of cancer death in the United States.

Help Patients Lower Their Lung Cancer Risk

Ask your patients if they use tobacco products.

  • Advise patients who don’t use them not to start.
  • Encourage patients who do use tobacco products to quit, and offer help with quitting. A doctor’s advice to quit is an important motivator for patients who are trying to stop smoking.
  • Talk with cancer survivors about the risks of tobacco use after a cancer diagnosis, and include tobacco cessation services as part of a survivorship care plan, when indicated.

Let patients know that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and advise them to avoid it.

Help patients decide whether to get lung cancer screening. Make sure those who choose to do so are screened on time.

Help Patients Decide Whether to Get Lung Cancer Screening

Screening people at high risk for lung cancer can reduce deaths by finding lung cancer at an early stage, when treatment is more effective.

You can help—

Annual screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) is the only test the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends for lung cancer screening. Many private insurers and Medicare cover annual LDCT screening for lung cancer for eligible patients, as well as a visit to decide if lung cancer screening is right for them.

Lung Cancer Risk Calculators

Clinical risk prediction calculators have been developed to—

  • Identify people at high risk for lung cancer.
  • Quantify the probability that a lung nodule found by lung cancer CT screening is malignant.

These calculators include an expanded list of risk factors in addition to smoking status and age. Radiologists have used the results from lung cancer risk calculators as part of decisions about follow-up management of lung nodules. Patients and primary care providers have used the results as part of the shared decision-making discussions recommended by the USPSTF and required by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services before the start of lung cancer screening. In its 2018 research plan on lung cancer screening, the USPSTF proposed a research question asking whether risk prediction models for identifying adults at higher risk of lung cancer mortality could improve the balance of benefits and harms of screening.

Links to Lung Cancer Risk Calculators

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