Camille Dellapesca started smoking in her teens and goes through up to a pack a day. Now, she's getting a CT scan to check for signs of lung cancer.
"In a way I felt good today knowing I'm going to get this done and hopefully the results will be good," she said.
At 62, Dellapesca falls within the new screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society. After years of study, the group is now recommending annual CT scans for high-risk smokers: patients 55-74 who smoke or have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years.
"Studies have shown that by properly screening people at high risk for lung cancer deaths can decline 20 percent," said Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society.
There are risks associated with CT scans, which is why doctors are not recommending the tests for all smokers. The scans are a type of X-ray and involve some radiation. Plus they can turn up false positives, which may lead to unnecessary tests or biopsies, and sometimes dangerous complications.
"On the CT scan, if you see a nodule that may be a cancer or maybe not, it's the evaluation of those noncancerous nodules that's the real risk. Forty percent of patients who get these lung cancer screenings, we find something to evaluate further," said Dr. Michael Pollack of Montclair Radiology.
Dellapesca's scan brought good news.
"Shows there's no evidence of lung cancer," she said.
While the American Cancer Society says these screenings will save lives, there's a long way to go. Lung cancer kills about 160,000 Americans each year.
The American Cancer Society's new screening guidelines include current smokers and those who have quit within the last 15 years.
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