Some physicians in favor of annual CT scans for people at high risk for lung cancer

Some doctors are heralding early intervention with these annual CT scans, while others caution this could set up millions of people for unnecessary tests and radiation exposure.

A yearly CT scan may save lives otherwise lost to lung cancer.

"I am ecstatic as a lung cancer oncologist that we have a new weapon in the war against lung cancer that is really -- it's been a long time coming,” said Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Dr. Christopher Lathan.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued a draft recommendation, supporting an annual CT scan for people at high risk for lung cancer.

Those between the ages of 55 and 80, who've smoked the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years.

Proponents say lung cancer screening is crucial because lung tumors are often found too late -- after people have symptoms.

"There's been no doubt, that if we can find the cancer earlier, that we can actually send those patients to surgery and they can be cured,” explained Lathan.

Nine million people would qualify under the task force's recommendation.

But opponents caution -- more than 96% of the screening c-t scans initially positive for lung cancer.. Turn out to be false positives.

Dr. Kenneth Lin - Georgetown University School of Medicine
"That's an issue because most of the time, in order to determine whether something is a false positive, you need additional imaging. That means additional CT scans, additional radiation, increasing your risk of future cancers down the line."

Or lung biopsies that also carry risks -- like infection.

Other major medical groups -- like the American Cancer Society -- have expressed support for screening CT scans.

The key with today's news is that, although not yet finalized, a backing from the U.S, Preventive Services Task Force would mean Medicare would likely pay for the test.

But one thing experts agree on, the single most important way to protect yourself against lung cancer is to quit smoking all together.

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