Chest physicians stick their chests (and necks) out

Lung cancer is still the No. 1 cause of cancer in both men and women. And it’s very hard to treat. In fact, just 16 percent of men and women who get it, live more than five years past their diagnosis.

Fortunately, we are finally learning more and more about how to prevent lung cancer. (And no, I’m not just talking about smoking cessation.) Researchers now know that using a common screening tool may help prevent thousands of lung cancer deaths each year. But the National Cancer Institute (NCI) refuses to acknowledge it.

Thankfully, some physicians have had enough of the science-bureaucrats’ failed policies. These physicians actually want to prevent lung cancer and help patients. Not just wag their politically correct fingers at smokers.

So what are they doing to speak up against NCI negligence? I’ll tell you that in a moment. But first, let’s back up…

Two years ago, researchers wrapped up the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial. They found that screening high-risk smokers and ex-smokers with annual CAT scans would prevent 12,000 lung cancer deaths per year. These high-resolution x-rays can spot suspicious lung nodules.

But the NCI has summarily dismissed the results.

It said in essence that screenings wouldn’t translate into “real world” prevention. (As if these Washington political scientists would know anything about the real world.) All because those naughty smokers “obviously” don’t care about health and won’t participate in screenings to prevent cancer! This NCI position of ignorance and arrogance assumes that patients at risk of lung cancer “just don’t care.”  

But just say no to the NCI. Here’s what they are ignoring…

Patients at high risk of lung cancer are not just heavy smokers, but former smokers too. And even many non-smokers. In fact, today there are more new lung cancer cases among former smokers and non-smokers than among current smokers.

You see, in politically correct Washington, D.C., discrimination still exists. While anything goes when it comes to other behaviors, it is perfectly acceptable, indeed, even required, to discriminate against one group of human beings…smokers. But the government’s policies don’t just discriminate against people who smoke. They also harm former smokers. And even the forgotten victims of lung cancer who never smoked a day in their lives.

Think about it…what does the government offer these victims, other than smoking cessation? After most of these high-risk victims have already quit. Or never started!

Smoking cessation clearly doesn’t protect them all. And we need more tools to fight the No. 1 cause of cancer in this country. Yet the government refuses to consider preventative screenings for those most at risk.

Thankfully, some physicians are speaking out anyway.

Earlier this year, the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) came out recommending preventative screenings for patients at high risk for lung cancer. 

Specifically, the ACCP recommends physicians offer low-dose, computed tomography scans to patients who have a significant risk of developing lung cancer due to smoking history and advancing age. Note their guidelines are actually evidence-based for a change, rather than politically based.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network first came out in favor of the screening in 2011. Even the American Cancer Society (in a break from their usual “Amen chorus” for the NCI) came out in favor of screening earlier this year.

These groups recognize that screenings will help save thousands of lives each year.

The ACCP notes that you should consider many factors before choosing to get screening. For example, doctors and patients should think about radiation exposure from the annual scans. Even with the low-dose CAT scan, you do get some exposure. Also, you should realize that lung cancer screenings, like any and every screening, will uncover some “false positives.” This includes all the useless screenings pushed by the NCI, as I’ve said in my Insiders’ Cures newsletter

“False positives” happen with any kind of cancer screening. Including mammograms and colonoscopies. But they are not excuses to neglect lung screenings altogether, as the NCI recommends. 

The ACCP also calls for establishing a cancer registry. This registry will help address the questions that may arise when screenings begin. The NCI has long received tax funding to maintain any number of cancer registries already. So will this represent the fox guarding the hen house? Government health agencies have been known to divert funding to their own priorities in the past.

And clearly doing anything to help those taxpayers at risk of lung cancer has not been a priority since the NCI launched the politically correct war on tobacco in the early 1980s. 

If you are worried about lung cancer, make sure to ask your doctor about lung cancer screenings. Thankfully, the idea is gaining traction among real-world physicians like the ACCP. 


“The American College of Chest Physicians Lung Cancer Guidelines (3rd Edition)ACCP Lung Cancer Guidelines: Is the Pulmonologist Moving From Special Teams to Quarterback?” Chest 2013; 143(5): 1193-1195