Lung Cancer & The Importance of Regular Screening

In the 21st century, cancer is a prevalent and unfortunate part of the global epidemic of disease. Of all the different categories and subcategories of cancer, lung cancer—and its various types—has become the most prevalent and one of the most deadly cancers in existence. As a result, recommendations are constantly being updated to fit the changing environment in which this disease continues to develop.

As a radiology clinic, our job is to provide imaging that allows patients and their doctors to detect conditions like lung cancer and begin crafting a plan to address them. Our clinic offers state-of-the-art CT imaging that gives doctors the most accurate imaging possible, which directly affects the outcomes of patients. This technology, combined with the expertise and drive of Dr. Sarmiento and his staff makes our clinic a fantastic place for referrals when it comes to medical imaging and interpretation. We are confident in our ability to serve the doctors and patients of El Paso for lung cancer or any other condition. 

In this blog, we’ll take a deep dive into the specific nature of lung cancer and the latest recommendations for screening and treatment. 

Lung Cancer’s Global Rise

Given the shocking prevalence of lung cancer globally, it would be easy to assume that the disease has been an issue for centuries or even millennia. However, the disease actually was nearly unheard of until the 20th century, with only around 374 published cases in 1912. Lung cancer’s relative obscurity for most of human history would come to an end though, with cases skyrocketing in the mid to late-20th century. 

Today, lung cancer has shed its obscurity to become the single most common cancer in the world and the most common cause of death from cancer. 

In the United States alone, there are over 200,000 new cases of lung cancer per year, with well over 100,000 deaths per year. 

Globally, there are over 2 million cases of lung cancer each year, with nearly 2 million deaths from the disease yearly. Clearly, lung cancer is a grave threat that seems to be accelerating in severity and ubiquity. 

The Dangers of Lung Cancer 

Lung cancer, as the name suggests, is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs. Cancer is characterized by a collection of cells that grow without order or control, which ultimately damages healthy tissue around the area. 

All cancers are characterized by this basic mechanism, yet lung cancer is disproportionately deadly when compared to other common cancers like colon, prostate, and breast cancer. One reason that lung cancer is so deadly is because it is rarely caught at an early stage. By some estimates, less than 20% of all lung cancer is caught early, making it much more difficult to treat. Once lung cancer is well established in the lungs or has spread to other parts of the body (known as metastatic lung cancer), it is incredibly difficult to reverse the process. This is why lung cancer accounts for nearly a full quarter of all cancer deaths. 

Lung Cancer Causes

Lung cancer can be divided into a few different types: adeno, squamous, small, large, and bronchial carcinoid. Since there are several types of lung cancers, there are also many ways that lung cancer can be caused. However, it is generally accepted that the most common cause of lung cancer is smoking, accounting for some 80-90 percent of lung cancer cases. 

Other causes of lung cancer include, but are not limited to, radon, air pollution, diesel exhaust, asbestos, secondhand smoke, and more. Some lung cancer cases can even seem to have no observable outside catalyst, though these cases are exceedingly rare. 

Given the state of society today, more and more people are exposed to the toxins and poisons that can lead to lung cancer. As a result, there are more opportunities for lung cancer to develop and become widespread, exacerbating an already overwhelming issue. 

Lung Cancer Demographics

Lung cancer, like most diseases, does not affect all demographics equally. Unfortunately, due to massive inequality and environmental racism, minority and poor groups are more susceptible to lung cancer. In fact, African American men alone are 37 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than white males. This can be attributed to a number of factors, like living in inner cities or areas that are more exposed to pollution from factories and other environmental intoxicants. 

Even when these groups have access to early screening, health outcomes are still lower due to a whole host of structural injustices. Unfortunately, like most things, racism can make issues disproportionately affect those who are already disadvantaged. 

In terms of age, lung cancer is found most often in people who are 65 and older, with very few cases being reported earlier than 50 years of age. However, this trend seems to be shifting yearly, with more cases being reported earlier than average. 

Regardless of these points, the most at-risk demographic for lung cancer are still older individuals who are current or former heavy smokers. 

Diving Into Current Recommendations

The recommendations for lung cancer are in constant flux, having been changed myriad times over the years. The recommendations have also been tailored to fit the full spectrum of those at risk, from non-smokers to heavy, lifelong smokers. 

According to the U.S Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), current and former heavy smokers should begin their screenings at age 50 with low-dose CT scans. Specifically, the USPSTF states that ages of 50 and 80 who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years should have an annual screening. Previously, the age range started at 55 years of age and required a 30 pack-year smoking history as opposed to 20. 

The recommendations have recently been changed since their latest major update in 2013, which broadens the relative percentage of persons eligible for screening by 87% overall—78% in non-Hispanic white adults, 107% in non-Hispanic Black adults, and 112% in Hispanic adults. 

If you or someone you know is in this demographic, then they may need to start being screened annually for lung cancer to potentially catch the condition in an early stage and prevent further spread. 

Visit Professional Radiology For El Paso’s Finest Imaging 

In the fight against cancer and other diseases, medical imaging is one of the first lines of defense aside from simple prevention. At Professional Radiology, we pride ourselves on offering world-class imaging and patient support to guide health decisions and shape outcomes. To learn more about our imaging services, contact us today or visit our clinics to speak with a member of the team! 

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