How the government could prevent 12,000 lung cancer deaths per year, but won’t

One out of 10 smokers gets lung cancer. And those who smoke the most are most at risk.

But, two years ago, U.S. researchers found a simple way to prevent lung cancer among those highest at risk. And government science-bureaucrats refuse to acknowledge it.

Instead, we just hear the endless preaching about smoking cessation. But, in fact, most people who get lung cancer today are former smokers. They’ve already quit. But they’re still getting lung cancer.

What do we tell them?

Plus, even as smoking goes down, people are still getting lung cancer. And the number of non-smokers with lung cancer is on the rise. In fact, one out of 100 non-smokers gets lung cancer, without ever taking a puff. But the government doesn’t talk about these statistics. And you don’t hear about this troubling fact in the news at all.

While driving through upstate New York last fall I heard a heartbreaking radio broadcast about a rally to raise public awareness for the 50,000 women with lung cancer in the U.S. who never smoked at all. They feel completely abandoned.

And what do we tell these women? They can’t stop smoking because they never started. What causes their cancer? And how can they prevent it?

We stopped doing routine annual chest x-rays long ago because they really didn’t detect new occurrences of cancer. And the risk of radiation was not worth it. Plus, x-rays have become old hat.

Instead, hospitals spend fortunes installing expensive, new imaging facilities. They even offer “open access” MRIs and CAT imaging equipment in freestanding, “walk-in” facilities–all to make more money.

Unfortunately, we give these expensive high-tech scans to folks with lower back pain–instead of to those at risk for lung cancer. The lower-back pain patients would be better off skipping the scan anyway. And going straight to physical therapy. I pointed this out in the December 2012 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.

Meanwhile, the folks at risk for lung cancer are given nothing to believe in but the flimsy “smoke-and-mirrors” smoking cessation statistics.

And that’s a crying shame, because preventative scans could clearly help reduce their risk…

Two years ago, the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial made this important discovery. The researchers 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.

One of the study authors told Reuters, “This is the first paper that attempts to assess the impact of screening on lung cancer cases nationally.”

But why is this only the first paper on this huge health problem?

Think of all the emphasis on screening for breast cancer. Mammograms are potentially dangerous and painful.

And what about colon cancer screening? They too are expensive, painful, and potentially dangerous. I have personally been consulted on too many cases of patients dying from ruptured intestines caused by safe, “routine” colonoscopies. And just last week, a new study found that one-quarter of the colonoscopies done on older people are not needed.

PAP smears for cervical cancer, while effective, are done much more often than necessary.

Why don’t we screen for lung cancer?

My old colleague Larry Kessler studies the diagnostic value of screening and he recently published an editorial, which accompanied the new study in the journal Cancer. He said this new study is a “pivotal event that should have woken people up.”

It should have, Larry. But it didn’t.

The government and the medical profession prefer wagging politically correct fingers against smokers. And even against former smokers and non-smokers.

One-hundred-and-sixty thousand people die each year of lung cancer. That figure is higher than deaths caused by auto accidents, Vietnam, and most other cancers combined.

So, remind me again, why don’t we screen for lung cancer?

But wait, the science bureaucrats in Bethesda have their reason why not.

The Division of Cancer Prevention at NCI–which hasn’t gotten anything right in the last 30 years that I know about–says the numbers would not translate in the “real world” because those naughty smokers would not want to be screened!

Really–this is the sole reason why we don’t screen them?

Can you hear those wagging fingers slicing through all the stifling hot air in Bethesda as you read this? Let’s just keep punishing those naughty, politically incorrect smokers!

First of all, when are the political science creatures at NCI ever concerned with–or even aware of–the real world of average Americans? I doubt anyone gleefully schedules a colonoscopy or a Pap smear. But they do it because the NCI says they should.

The NCI also points to problems with screenings in general–such as costs and false positives–to discredit lung cancer screening. But those same problems apply to every single kind of screening. Mammograms. Pap Smears. Colonoscopies. They’re all prone to the same problems. But the government still pushes them. Including many that are worthless, or worse.

What an incredibly, stupendously stupid comment from the agency that pushes cancer screening at every other opportunity! By the way, NCI gave up on finding cures for lung cancer long ago in favor of the anti-smoking mantra.

If you did not think that there is still gross, government-wide, politically correct discrimination against some people who get lung cancer–smokers and even the thousands of innocent, non-smokers–this should prove it to you.

Usually the government loves to find “victims” for everything. But the government has no love for victims of lung cancer. But remains happy to collect their cigarette taxes for this legal substance.



2. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;():1-9. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2912