As the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, lung cancer is pervasive and deadly. But like many cancers, patients have a better chance at successful treatment outcomes and survival if caught early through screening and early detection efforts. Despite lung cancer being the second most diagnosed cancer for men and women, not all Americans are aware of its screening recommendations. To address the gap in awareness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is promoting a new public health campaign on the issue.
In the United States, approximately 218,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year and nearly 149,000 will die from it. Symptoms vary, and most people with lung cancer don’t present with symptoms until the disease is advanced. Working with healthcare providers to determine risk, prevention, and treatment options is important, and CDC recommends identifying patients who have heighted risk for lung cancer to begin screening efforts.
For lung cancer screenings, low-dose computed tomography is recommended for people with a history of heavy smoking, who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, and who are between 55 and 80 years old. According to CDC, heavy smoking is defined as a smoking history of 30 pack years or more. Pack years constitute having smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for an entire year.
The associated risks of regular lung cancer screening are:
- Potential false-positive diagnoses
- Overdiagnosis or revealing a cancer that has otherwise not caused an issue
- Repeated radiation exposure from the screening process
Nurses are vital providers of prevention education and can ensure that their patients are participating in the early detection efforts that are right for them by adhering to nationally recognized lung cancer screening guidelines.
ONS members have been key to advocating for smoking cessation legislation to protect public health. As coalition members of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, ONS is active in health policy for smoking and vaping cessation. Nurses can effect change by sharing their experiences and educating lawmakers about the impact of lung cancer and tobacco use and the importance of cancer prevention.