THURSDAY, Feb. 2, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Most current and former smokers in the United States don't get screened for lung cancer even though they're at increased risk for the deadly disease, a new study reveals.
The findings highlight the need to educate doctors and at-risk patients about lung cancer screening, according to the American Cancer Society researchers.
Their analysis of federal government data found that the proportion of eligible current and former smokers who underwent lung cancer screening in the past 12 months remained low -- 3.3 percent in 2010 to 3.9 percent in 2015.
The researchers calculated that of the 6.8 million current and former smokers eligible for lung cancer screening in 2015, only 262,700 received it.
"The reasons for the low uptake in screening are probably varied, and likely include lack of knowledge among both smokers and doctors as to screening recommendations, as well as access to high-quality screening," study leader Dr. Ahmedin Jemal said in a cancer society news release.
"Our previous study showed implementing quality screening broadly across the U.S. could prevent about 12,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the short term. But we cannot prevent those deaths until and unless we start educating eligible smokers as well as clinicians about the benefits and risks of screening, so patients can make an informed decision," he said.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography for people aged 55 to 80 with a "30-pack or more per year smoking history."
Research suggests this could reduce lung cancer deaths in this group of patients by 20 percent, the study authors said.
The findings were published online Feb. 2 in the journal JAMA Oncology.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on lung cancer screening.