WHEN THE U.S. PREVENTIVE SERVICES TASK FORCE offered its first-ever recommendation for lung cancer screening in 2013, it was big news. The studies the Task Force based its recommendation on had found screening could reduce lung cancer deaths by 20%. But the initial impact of the screening recommendations, which call for annual low-dose CT scans for high-risk individuals, was small.
In 2015, an estimated 8 million high-risk individuals were eligible for screening. Data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey show that only about 4% of high-risk individuals had a low-dose CT scan that year. Efforts are underway to get more people to talk to their doctors about screening.
The need for increased screening is especially great in rural areas. Rates of smoking and cancer diagnoses are higher in rural areas than they are in urban areas. Rural areas also have higher rates of late-stage lung cancer diagnoses. A study in the April 2019 Journal of the American College of Radiology highlights two of the potential challenges rural individuals face if they are interested in screening: geographic access to a low-dose CT scan screening program and a lack of providers trained to discuss the risks and benefits of screening.