ALA, ATS Lung Cancer Screening Guide Could Save Thousands At Risk

JANUARY 11, 2019
MD Magazine Staff
Harold P. WimmerHarold P. Wimmer
The New Year is a good time to restart, recharge, and refresh. In honor of that annual tradition, the American Lung Association (ALA) and MD Magazine® are reminding physicians to kick off 2019 with a refresher on the Lung Cancer Screening Implementation Guide, an online toolkit designed to provide practical operational tools and best practices in lung cancer screening.

The online guide, a project collaborated on with the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and first presented at the 2018 ATS International Conference in San Diego, CA, was authored by Carey C. Thomson, MD, MPH, director of the Lung Cancer Screening Program at Mount Auburn Hospital, and Andrea McKee, MD, co-chair of the Lung Cancer Screening Steering Committee at Tufts University School of Medicine.

Lung cancer is currently the highest-killing cancer in both men and women, but according to the ALA, an estimated 25,000 American lives could be saved if all high-risk patients were screened. High-risk criteria includes current smokers or those who quit in the past 15 years, aged 55-80 years old, and whose cigarette use is equivalent to 30 “pack years,” or any combination of daily packs and smoking years that equals 30.

The reality is that screening rates among patients with high-risk criteria is currently near 5%. Stephen C. Crane, PhD, MPH, executive director of ATS, said the collaborated screening criteria is relatively new “and drastically underutilized.”

“It's imperative that patients have access to high quality lung cancer screening programs, and we’re proud to provide community hospitals and health care systems guidance on establishing programs based on best practices, so that they may best serve their communities,” Crane said in a statement.

Craned explained the guide also serves as an overview of various lung cancer screening programs structures, as well as current topics for consideration in the field—pitfalls, obstacles, new resources and tools, etc.

As an online tool, the screening guide is laden with resources and links to tools for implementing lung cancer screening programs.

Other steps featured in the 100-plus page resource are available smoking cessation interventions, how to identify and counsel patients eligible for care, and managing proper surveillance and follow-up of patients’ screening-detected findings.

The guide reads as comprehensive, if not just because of the deadly toll lung cancer has taken on the US population. But, as ALA national president and chief executive officer Harold P. Wimmer noted, a major reason why it’s so deadly in the first place is that it’s being diagnosed when it’s too late.

“Advancing screening programs to every community through the support of this new implementation guide is an important step in ensuring that everyone who is eligible has the opportunity to access screening, regardless of where they live,” Wimmer said in a statement. “Through screening, we can save thousands of lives and begin to turn the tide against lung cancer."

The lung cancer screening guide is available through the ALA website.

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