There is a test available to screen for lung cancer in people with a high risk – the Low Dose CT (LDCT) scan. Screening is not for anyone who is already experiencing symptoms of lung cancer.
Who should get the annual scan?
• a current or former smoker (with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years – meaning 1 pack a day for 30 years, 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.)
• in the age group from 55 to 79 years
These recommendations are through draft statements from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), and the American Lung Association. The potential risks of the scan were factored into the recommendations. Individuals should not receive a chest X-ray for lung cancer screening.
Previous statements from the National Cancer Institute make asbestos exposure a risk factor to consider as well, especially when combined with smoking.
Lung Cancer and Asbestos: Occupational exposure to asbestos, even without a history of cigarette use, can cause lung cancer. If you smoked and you have been occupationally exposed to asbestos, then a synergistic effect between tobacco smoke and asbestos greatly increases your risk for developing lung cancer. In fact, the increased risk is more than fivefold.
What occupations may have had asbestos exposure? Since asbestos was a common material used in numerous industries throughout most of the 20th century there are many. From the 1940s through the 1970s, asbestos was used in power plants, refineries, chemical plants, U.S. Navy ships as well as in commercial and residential construction. If you worked at one of these industrial facilities, served in the U.S. Navy or were in the construction trades during the 1950s, 60s or 70s, you may have experienced occupational exposure to asbestos.
You may also have been exposed through home remodeling, close contact with people who worked with asbestos, or proximity to certain manufacturing facilities.
Though asbestos exposure is not mentioned in the recommendations for an annual LDCT scan, if you fall into the categories of asbestos exposure above, it is wise to consult your doctor to determine a need for further tests.