Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, despite nearly a decade of screening availability, according to the American Lung Association (ALA). Unfortunately, neither of those facts has sunk in for many Americans, according to an ALA survey that found only 29% of Americans know that lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths. Nearly 70% were not aware that low-dose CT scan screening is available for early detection of the disease, despite it being recommended as early as 2013 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), insurers being required under the Affordable Care Act to cover screenings recommended by USPSTF, and screening eligibility guidelines being expanded in 2021. Whereas about 14.2 million Americans qualify as being at high risk for lung cancer due to their age (50-80) and a 20 pack-year smoking history, the ALA estimates that only about 5% of those who are eligible have been screened for lung cancer. What’s more, only 40% of adults were concerned that they might develop lung cancer, the survey showed, and nearly three in four had not spoken to their doctor about their risk. With lung cancer screening being still relatively new, according to Arif Kamal, MD, chief patient officer for the American Cancer Society, most people, he said, do not know about it, and most doctors probably do not know about the 2021 updated guideline that expanded eligibility. In addition, many people are reluctant to talk about lung cancer, because they might feel guilty or ashamed that their own actions have put them at increased risk, explained Dr. Kamal. Only one in four survey respondents knew that the lung cancer survival rate has increased by more than 30% during the past 10 years, according to the ALA. Part of this improvement is due to screening efforts, Dr. Kamal added.
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