October 26, 2023
Marcy Duncan hadn't fully healed from her surgery for stage I breast cancer when she and her boyfriend met with her oncologist in the spring of 2022. She expected to discuss radiation and other next treatment steps. But her doctor raised a more serious concern, rolling his chair a bit closer to the couple before starting to speak.
After that, Duncan's memory is a bit hazy. Did he say that testing had found a mass, or did he mention the possibility of lung cancer specifically? She remembers hearing its size: 8 centimeters. But she pictured 8 inches instead. How, she wondered, could something so large even fit inside her lungs?
The room grew very quiet. "Thank God I had somebody with me," she says. "We were in shock — it was definitely shock."
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that older adults who smoke and some former smokers get screened every year with low-dose computed tomography (CT). That recommendation has been in place for a decade. More than 14 million U.S. adults qualify. But only 5.8% of them got screened in 2021, American Lung Association data show.
The result: Many lung cancers are still caught as Duncan's was: essentially by chance, not by regular screening.