Can Smokers Kick One Habit but Pick up Another?

I am asking smokers to add another habit to their lives. Only this one is a good habit!

On February 2, 2017 a research letter in the prestigious medical journal JAMA Oncology reported that only 3 to 4% of smokers underwent a low-dose CT scan to find a new lung cancer in 2010.  And the response was much the same in 2015: 3.3% in 2010 versus 3.9% in 2015.

Dr. Jemal, the senior researcher of the JAMA Oncology study, said “We estimated that by 2015 there would be 6.8 million smokers eligible for screening, but only 262,000 were screened.”

CT Scans Can Save Smokers’ Lives

In 2017, lung cancer will kill 160,000 Americans.  Most smokers, about 85% in fact, are diagnosed when their lung cancer is inoperable or has spread to other critical organs, like the liver, brain, or bone.  With stage III or stage IV disease, there is little hope for cure or even survival beyond a few years.  When diagnosed early, lung cancer is highly curable with surgery or with a noninvasive technique called stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SBRT), like that delivered by CyberKnife.

In 2011, the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) showed that screening current or former smokers with low-dose CT scans could save 30,000 Americans each and every year.  But we’re far from that goal. 

Is the Glass Half Empty or Half-Full?

I think a response of 3-4% is actually pretty good.  Why do I say so?  The best marketers out there tell me that a “good response” to direct marketing is just 0.1 to 0.25% – over 20 times lower than the success rate for screening smokers for lung cancer with low-dose CT scans.

Let’s face it.  It is difficult to get people’s attention.  Americans are bombarded by information every day-from TV, newspapers, and the Internet.

In the JAMA Oncology article, Dr. Jemal seemed to point the finger at uninsured patients, Medicaid patients, and even family doctors who may be unaware of the power of low-dose CT scans for screening for early stage lung cancer.

Dr. Jemal said “Screening requires a lot of things. First you have to educate the physicians and the patients and half of your patients are not covered by Medicare,” as reported by

The First Dayton Cancer Care Solution

At First Dayton Cancer Care, a low dose CT scan for screening current or past smokers costs only $99.  And we’ll also see if your insurance covers the cost.  Many private insurance carriers do.

The CT scan is painless-no injections or needles-and takes only a few minutes of your time.

It’s never too late to stop smoking. But I’m asking smokers to kick the habit and take up another. I’m urging them to get in the habit of a yearly screening CT scan for lung cancer.

The response to the Federal Government’s low-dose CT scan screening for lung cancer has been a start, but one that I would not call good.  My conclusion, to paraphrase Prime Minister Nehru, is that our approach needs to be better.

If you have any questions about screening for lung cancer or other cancers, please feel free to call me, Dr. Edward Hughes, at 855-Dayton1.