Smoking and the risk of cancer was a topic covered by the Daily Mail recently, after a study in Washington concluded that annually scanning senior heavy smokers between the ages of 55 to 80 for lung cancer, could potentially save thousands of lives.

Earlier Diagnoses

The American study pointed out that many lung cancer sufferers don’t survive because their cancer isn’t found until it is too late to administer preventative treatment, but by scanning heavy smokers once a year, there was more chance of picking up the disease earlier and providing treatment to cure or prolong the life of a person suffering from cancer.

The UK

Senior woman with a cigarette

Here in the UK, lung cancer is the second most common cancer after breast cancer, but we don’t have a screening scheme here because it is thought that there are too many risks involved in annual CT Scanning, but trails are being carried out to find an alternative method of detecting lung cancer before it is too late to treat. At the moment the UK uses X Rays, but unfortunately early stage cancer doesn’t show up, whereas it does using a CT Scan.

The American study acknowledges these risks, but they claim that screening senior heavy smokers will still save lives and has less risk than with the screening of younger smokers.

What are the risks?

Unfortunately the CT scans in older people can show up false positives in the older age group, which means that a biopsy then needs to carried out and this of course creates stress and worry for the patient.

CT scans themselves emit a huge amount of radiation, which could eventually cause the cancer you are trying to avoid, although the new tests in America and the UK are looking at low dosage scans and other screening methods.

Giving Up

According to Cancer Research UK it is estimated that a fifth of all cancer deaths is caused by Tobacco and if you give up smoking in middle age, you reduce your cancer risk significantly.

According to the National Health’s website after ten years you reduce the risk of lung cancer by half of that of a smoker and your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has never smoked. You can get medicines on prescription to help you stop smoking and there are many support groups up and down the country.

Ask Your Doctor

If you are a heavy smoking senior and you want your lungs checked, then see your doctor and he or she will talk you through the options available. If you want to stop smoking, check out the NHS website, which is full of tips and support methods to help you on your journey.