Frank F. successfully quit smoking after making a promise to his daughter. A smoker since the age of 15, Frank said that smoking was a part of his everyday life. "Back in those days, you had people who were lighting up before doing just about anything." Before quitting, Frank had smoked 22,000 cigarettes over 30 years.
After he retired, Frank took up golf as a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. "When signing up for golf, I saw a poster in the locker room promoting a low-dose CT scan for people at high risk for lung cancer that was sponsored by my hospital," Frank said. He decided to get the scan. "This was a way for me to find out, once and for all, if I was healthy."
Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health. But many former smokers, like Frank, don't realize they might be at risk for lung cancer.
An estimated 9 million people in the U.S. are at high risk for lung cancer, and nearly half of them are former smokers. While current smokers may ask their doctors about health risks and quitting smoking, many former smokers may not ask the same questions. In many cases, the health risks of smoking fade to the background for former smokers, especially years after they quit, and they often aren't aware that they may be considered at high risk for lung cancer and eligible for lung cancer screening.
Screening is key to early detection, and when lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it is more likely to be curable. In fact, if only half of those who are eligible are screened, an estimated 15,000 lives would be saved. Despite this, estimates indicate that less than five percent of high-risk Americans are screened for lung cancer in the past year.
In conjunction with November's Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the American Lung Association conducted its fourth annual Lung Health Barometer, and findings revealed that awareness of lung cancer and the lifesaving potential of lung cancer screening is critically low. Only 15 percent of those surveyed were aware that screening for lung cancer is recommended and covered by Medicare and most healthcare plans at no cost. In addition, 84 percent of the high-risk population is unfamiliar with the only recommended lung cancer screening available—the low-dose CT scan.
From his low-dose CT scan, Frank learned that he had early-stage lung cancer, and because he caught it early, he was able to have surgery to treat the cancer, saving his life.
"Two weeks after surgery, I got back to my normal life," Frank said. "I now get routine scans to make sure I remain cancer free. I encourage anyone who fits the profile to get the low-dose CT scan, because it certainly saved my life."
To further spread awareness about the benefits of lung cancer screening, the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE initiative and the Ad Council launched the "Saved By The Scan". This public service campaign aims to raise awareness of the benefits of early detection through lung cancer screening for both smokers and former smokers who might be eligible.
To learn if you may be at high risk for lung cancer, visit SavedByTheScan.org to take our lung cancer screening eligibility quiz or talk to your doctor to learn more. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with lung cancer, we are here to help.