American Cancer Society Expands Lung Screening Protocols for Past and Present Smoker Population

American Cancer Society Lung Cancer Guidelines

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated its guideline for who is considered to have a high risk for developing lung cancer and should get screened for it each year. The guideline changes mean nearly 5 million more people will be eligible for lung cancer screening each year. Key changes include:

  1. People aged 50 to 80 who currently or formerly smoked should talk with a healthcare provider about lung cancer screening. Previously, the ACS guideline was ages 55 to 74 years.
  2. People with lower pack-year histories qualify for screening. The new guideline recommends screening for anyone with a 20+ pack-year history, compared to the previous guideline of a 30+ year pack history.
  3. The most important change is that the number of years since quitting smoking is no longer a qualifier for starting or stopping yearly screening.

That means a person who used to smoke with at least a 20 pack-year history, whether they quit yesterday or 20 years ago, is considered to have a high risk for developing lung cancer and should be recommended for a yearly scan if they don’t have a serious health problem that will likely limit how long they will live, or if they won’t be able to or won’t want to get treatment if lung cancer is found. Previously, the ACS guideline recommended screening only for people who had quit 15 years ago or less.

(Note: Pack-year history describes how long a person smoked and how many cigarettes were smoked. One pack of cigarettes contains 20 cigarettes. To calculate the number of pack years, multiply the number of years a person smoked by the number of packs they smoked each day.)

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