CDC changing cancer screening guidelines for smokers

(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)(Jenny Kane | AP)
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 9:12 PM CDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - If you smoke or know someone who does, there are new lung cancer screening guidelines and they include younger people with shorter smoking histories.

Smoking has been a part of 65-year-old Terri Rumpf’s life.

“Once you are a smoker you are stuck,” Rumpf said.

Rumpf started smoking when she was 18, smoking a about pack a day. She quit a year and a half ago. Because of her extensive history of smoking, three years ago Rumpf’s doctor recommended lung cancer screenings. The first two screenings she was in the clear. Last year, something popped up.

“Turns out it was cancer and they took part of my lung but, they caught it very early,” Rumpf said.

Rumpf is grateful she got that screening. Now, more Americans can get one too. More smokers are now eligible for yearly screenings to detect lung cancer.

That’s according to the updated recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force. The panel recommends high-risk patients start screening at age 50, rather than 55.

Also, the number of pack-years has been lowered from 30 to 20. A pack-year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year.

“The length of smoking is much more important than the number of cigarettes smoked per day,” Dr. Adam Lye a Medical Oncologist at Norton Healthcare said. “By dropping the pack-year and age we are able to expand screenings. These are for smokers these are for patients who are actively smoking or who have quit within the last 15 years. I describe it to my smokers as a kind of mammogram for smokers.”

Catching it early is key. The changes also mean more African Americans and women are now eligible for lung cancer screening. Dr. Lye said African Americans and women tend to be less heavy smokers and may not have met the earlier screening threshold despite being at risk for lung cancer. These new guidelines will be especially helpful for people in Kentucky and Indiana who smoke.

“I’ve seen estimates as high as 28% of Kentuckians who smoke the national average is around 17%,” Lye said.

According to NBC News, the task force recommendation means insurers must offer the screening without a copay to people who meet the criteria.

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