DEAR MAYO CLINIC: At my last physical, my doctor suggested that I should be screened for lung cancer. I used to smoke about a pack of cigarettes a day, but I quit 12 years ago. I am 63 now and in good health. Is screening really necessary for me? What does it involve?
ANSWER: Screening programs are used to find lung cancer at an early stage, when it is more likely to be successfully treated. In general, screening is recommended for people at higher risk of developing lung cancer. That often includes people like you who smoked heavily at some point in their lives.
Lung cancer is currently the number one cancer killer in the United States. More people die in the U.S. each year from lung cancer than from colon, breast and prostate cancer combined. But studies have shown that a properly organized screening program can reduce the number of people who die from lung cancer by 20 percent.