The American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) last week announced its strong support of a draft recommendation from the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that calls for lung cancer screening of asymptomatic smokers.

“Lung cancer is a common and lethal disease. Nearly a quarter million new lung cancer victims will be identified this year,” said Michael T. Jaklitsch, MD, associate professor, Department of Surgery, Harvard Medical School.

Jaklitsch helped spearhead a multispecialty lung Cancer Screening and Surveillance Task Force.

“Sadly, only 15% of these victims will be found with early stage disease. Yet lung cancer can be cured up to 88% of the time that early stage disease is found,” he added. “Screening programs have been successful in reducing cancer deaths related to breast cancer (mammography), colon cancer (colonoscopy) and prostate cancer (PSA and rectal exams).

Until now there has been no screening test for lung cancer, even though lung cancer kills more Americans than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. This historic recommendation will establish lung cancer screening and dramatically reduce deaths from this devastating disease.”

The draft recommendation calls for low-dose CT scans to be performed once a year, every year in smokers with 30 pack years tobacco exposure and between the ages of 55 and 80.