Spiral CT for Lung Cancer Screening
What it is: A spiral CT, or low-dose computed tomography scan, is a more accurate and detailed X-ray of the lungs than a simple X-ray. Smokers or former smokers between 55 and 80 who have a 30 pack-year smoking history should have a yearly spiral CT, recommends the USPSTF. To calculate your pack-year number, multiply the number of packs you smoked per day by the number of years you smoked. A pack a day for 30 years is a 30 pack-year history, and so is two packs a day for 15 years.
The spiral CT test comes with some risks, including a small risk of radiation exposure. Also, it has a relatively high false-positive rate — as many as one-fourth of those tested — which can lead to anxiety as well as unneeded tests and procedures.
Why you should consider spiral CT: While you may think breast cancer is the biggest cancer threat, the most frequent cause of cancer deaths in U.S. women is actually lung cancer. It will account for 13 percent of new cancer cases and about 26 percent of cancer deaths in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society. Taking this preventive care step can be a huge benefit, as screening has cut lung cancer deaths by 20 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.