Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Smoking Cessation Health Center

Font Size

Routine Lung CT Scans for Older, Heavy Smokers

Yearly testing will prevent some lung cancer deaths, experts conclude

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- A highly influential government panel of experts is recommending that older smokers at high risk of lung cancer receive annual low-dose CT scans to help detect and possibly prevent the spread of the fatal disease.

The The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that the benefits to a very specific segment of smokers outweigh the risks involved in receiving the annual scans, said co-vice chair Dr. Michael LeFevre, a distinguished professor of family medicine at the University of Missouri.

Specifically, the task force recommended annual low-dose CT scans for current and former smokers aged 55 to 80 with at least a 30 "pack-year" history of smoking who have had a cigarette sometime within the last 15 years. The person also should be generally healthy and a good candidate for surgery should cancer be found, LeFevre said.

About 20,000 of the United States' nearly 160,000 annual lung cancer deaths could be prevented if doctors follow these screening guidelines, LeFevre said. Lung cancer found in its earliest stage is 80 percent curable, usually by surgical removal of the tumor.

"That's a lot of people, and we feel it's worth it, but there will still be a lot more people dying from lung cancer," he said. "That's why the most important way to prevent lung cancer will continue to be to convince smokers to quit."

Pack years are determined by multiplying the number of packs smoked daily by the number of years a person has smoked. For example, a person who has smoked two packs a day for 15 years has 30 pack years, as has a person who has smoked a pack a day for 30 years.

The USPSTF issued its draft recommendation Monday after a thorough review of previous research, and will take public comments on it until Aug. 26. A report summary will be published online July 30 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"I think they did a very good analysis of looking at the pros and cons, the harms and benefits," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, immediate past chair of the national board of directors of the American Lung Association. "They looked at a balance of where we can get the best bang for our buck."

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?

Filtered cigarettes
an array of e cigarettes
human heart
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms

man smoking cigarette
no smoking sign
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
chain watch