Every day, we hear about new medical innovations that are leading us toward game-changing treatments and cures for a wide range of cancers. Still, the Holy Grail for surviving a cancer diagnosis continues to be early detection.
Most of us are rightly guided to key lifesaving cancer screenings by our primary care physicians. Mammography and pap smears are routine parts of annual wellness visits for most women. Everyone over age 50 is guided toward colonoscopy.
Now, after a nearly decade's long effort that included validation by the National Cancer Institute, there is a new tool in the cancer screening arsenal -- and it could dramatically change outcomes for the nation's leading cancer killer: lung cancer.
Lung cancer takes more lives than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined. It kills more women than breast and every gynecological cancer combined. That's why making lung cancer screening for those at high risk a routine part of our national public health infrastructure is vital.
Lung cancer's five-year survival rate has hovered around 16 percent since the War on Cancer was declared over 40 years ago. Prevention has made a difference. But the fact is, lung cancer is a stealth cancer and tragically, by the time it is symptomatic, it is generally too late.
Lung cancer screening will change this. This new screening tool has the potential to transform lung cancer from the nation's leading cancer killers to a survivable diagnosis.
It is important to note that unlike other cancer screenings, which are offered population wide based on age, lung cancer screening reflects a new era in cancer screening -- one that focuses on screening those with specific risks.
For now, lung cancer screening is only recommended for those in a defined high risk population of current or former heavy smokers between ages 55 and 80. But screening those at known high risk now, will help answer questions on the unknown risks and how cancers take hold in the lungs.
To find out if you're at high-risk, you can use Lung Cancer Alliance's Risk Navigator tool. You can also find information on where to get screened.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. One-quarter of all cancer deaths are lung cancer deaths. We win the war on cancer by winning the battle against lung cancer. This year, those at high risk now have a tool in their arsenal to do just that. If you are at risk, get screened!