Douglas Arenberg, M.D., leads the U-M Lung Cancer Screening Clinic.

New lung cancer screening guidelines

Annual CT scans now recommended for high-risk patients

issue 20 | winter 2014

In a major policy change, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued new guidelines that recommend annual CT scans for certain smokers and former smokers. The recommendations apply to adults who have no signs or symptoms but are at high risk for developing the disease, namely people age 55-80 with a history of smoking 30 packs per year or more, whether they are still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years.

This recommendation comes from data reported by the National Lung Screening Trial, a randomized trial involving 53,454 current or former heavy smokers ages 55 to 74. The trial compared two ways of detecting lung cancer: low-dose helical CT and standard chest X-ray. Participants who received low-dose helical CT scans had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest X-rays.

All high-risk smokers should be encouraged to seek counseling and potential screening through comprehensive screening programs, such as the one offered at the U-M Lung Cancer Screening Clinic. Our interdisciplinary team has significant experience monitoring patients with lung nodules while minimizing unnecessary invasive procedures.