Articles | Lung Screening

Lung Screening for Smokers: Benefits of Early Detection

It can be hard to ignore the reality that an average of 6 people die each day from smoking-related diseases. In fact, 80 percent of smokers start before they even turn 21, and lung cancer is now the third most common form of this disease for men and women alike in Singapore. If you’re concerned about your risk for lung cancer, low-dose computerised tomography (CT) lung screening in smokers and former smokers can detect cancerous cells early to live longer, healthier lives.
lung screening for smokers


Clear Clinical Benefits of Lung Screening for Smokers

Quitting smoking is one of the most powerful interventions for decreasing the incidence of lung cancer mortality rates in Singapore. Still, in reality, smoking cessation success rates remain below 5 percent, even though 6 Singaporeans pass prematurely from smoking-related diseases each day.

According to figures from a National Health Survey, about 80 percent of smokers start before they are even allowed to vote. If you still smoke or are a former smoker — even if you quit more than a decade ago — it’s understandable that you may have nagging thoughts about the possibility of lung cancer. 

In Singapore, lung cancer is the third most common form of the disease in both men and women. Smoking-related diseases — including heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — contribute to some of the nation’s top conditions related to mortality rates. But the rates of lung cancer in non-smokers are also rising.

Lung cancer is classified into two major categories: non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is more common and small-cell lung cancer, which is more aggressive and has a poor survival rate.

Clear clinical benefits support lung screening for smokers with low-dose CT scans to increase early detection and decrease late-stage lung cancer diagnosis. If lung cancer is detected early, a patient has a better chance of survival. Unfortunately, in Singapore, more than 60 percent of men and women with NSCLC have non-specific symptoms or are asymptomatic and find out too late when cancer has already spread or metastasized.

According to the National Cancer Centre Singapore report, the 5-year survival rate for early-stage NSCLC (Stage I and II) is approximately 70 percent, compared with 4 percent for Stage IV. That’s why early lung cancer screening in Singapore for smokers can make a difference and save lives.

Early Lung Screening for Smokers and Former Smokers

In Singapore, low-dose CT screening is available in private healthcare. However, most people, even those who may qualify as high-risk patients for lung cancer, fail to get diagnosed early enough. 

“It’s critical to take steps to identify and treat lung cancer in its early stages, as a majority of patients with the disease at an advanced Stage IV are unlikely to survive past the first year”, said Dr Harish Mithiran, managing thoracic surgeon of Neumark Lung & Chest Surgery Centre and senior consultant thoracic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital, Singapore.

Regular lung screenings for smokers and former smokers make sense, but unlike mammography or prostate cancer screening, screening is not a part of most smokers’ healthcare regimens. That’s why Neumark provides a painless CT low-dose lung screening test for lung cancer in smokers as part of the clinic’s comprehensive programme for early detection.

Should I Get Screened Even If I Don’t Fit the Criteria?

Some people wonder if they should be screened for lung diseases even though they haven’t smoked or have had the occasional cigarette when out drinking with friends.

Currently, the Ministry of Health in Singapore recommends individualized, annual low-dose CT lung cancer scans only for high-risk populations: People between 55 to 74 years old who are current smokers or have a smoking history.

But in just more than a decade, NSCLC rates among people who have never smoked have increased to 48 percent (2018) from 32 percent (2006) in Singapore. If you are concerned, discuss the possibility of a cancer screening test with your primary care provider. 

“X-rays often, inadvertently, detect nodules and abnormal masses; however, studies indicate that they are still ineffective at decreasing deaths from lung cancer,” Dr Harish says. 

Although the vast majority of lung nodules turn out benign, low-dose CT scans aim to increase early detection, decrease diagnosed lung cancer at the metastatic stage and improve chances of living five years after diagnosis.

At Neumark Lung & Chest Surgery Centre, patients have access to a top thoracic surgeon, groundbreaking technology, and the latest evidence-based clinical lung cancer research. Our clinic provides early lung detection screening for smokers, former smokers and never smokers, giving you a better chance of beating cancer before it’s too late.

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