Lung cancer remains a highly preventable disease because 90% of lung cancers occur in smokers or former smokers. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.
- Cigarette smoking is highly addictive, and quitting often proves to be difficult. However, smoking rates have recently decreased in North America and in other parts of the world.
- Health-care workers play an important role in identifying smokers and helping them quit.
- Many products such as nicotine gum, nicotine sprays, nicotine inhalers, and some prescription medications have been successfully used to help people trying to quit smoking.
- Minimizing exposure to passive smoking is also an effective preventive measure.
- Using a home radon test kit can identify and allow correction of increased radon levels in the home, which can also cause lung cancers.
- Smokers who use a combination of supplemental nicotine, medical therapy, group therapy, and behavioral training show a significant drop in smoking rates.
Screening for lung cancer consists of the following:
- Currently, the American Cancer Society does not recommend routine chest X-ray screening for lung cancer. What this means is that many health-insurance plans do not cover screening chest X-rays or CT scans.
- Periodic chest X-rays may be appropriate for current or former smokers. Discuss the pros and cons of this approach with a health-care provider.
- Low-dose CT scans have shown potential in detecting early-stage lung cancer and therefore more surgical cures. This procedure requires a special type of CT scanner (spiral CT) and has been shown to be an effective tool for the identification of small lung cancers in smokers and former smokers. However, it has not yet been proven conclusively whether the use of this technique actually saves lives or lowers the risk of death from lung cancer. Trials are underway to further determine the utility of spiral CT scans in screening for lung cancer.
- The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has determined that current evidence is insufficient to recommend for, or against, screening for lung cancer. This means that further research is needed to clarify whether screening tests for lung cancer are beneficial.