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Lung Cancer Screening Research

Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer, resulting in about 85 percent of lung cancers in the United States. The risk for developing lung cancer also increases with age, with most lung cancers occurring in people age 55 or older.

In an important step toward earlier detection and treatment of this disease, the US Preventive Services Task Force recently posted its final evidence report and draft recommendation statement on screening for lung cancer.

“We are happy to see the US Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF) endorse the findings of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) and recommend annual screening CTs for people at high risk for lung cancer,” said Malcolm DeCamp, MD, chief of the division of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, professor of surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. “In terms of lives saved, this intervention represents the most significant advance in the war on lung cancer in the past 50 years. The Northwestern Medicine community should be proud of their leadership role in NLST as the only center in the Chicagoland area to participate in this life-saving research. " 

Based primarily on the NLST results, the USPSTF recommends that current and former smokers aged 55 to 80 who have smoked for 30 pack years or more, should be offered low dose CT screening. A “pack year” means that someone has smoked an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for a year. For example, a person reaches 30 pack years of smoking history by smoking a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.

Prior to the NLST, no screening test for lung cancer had proven effective in reducing lung cancer mortality.

Donors who are interested in assisting the battle against lung cancer can make a strong impact by contributing to research in thoracic oncology. Pilot studies, which are funded by individuals or small philanthropic groups, can lead to large clinical trials, which can in turn lead to more effective treatment options. Donors also can contribute to educational initiatives, including public education about the perils of smoking, the benefits of quitting and the successes in screening for lung cancer.

To learn more about our lung cancer program, click here. To donate to the Northwestern Memorial Foundation, click here.