Lung cancer scans urged

FILE - In a June 3, 2010, file photo, Dr. Steven Birnbaum works with a patient in a CT scanner at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, N.H. For the first time, government advisers are recommending screening for lung cancer, saying certain current and former smokers should get annual scans to cut their chances of dying of the disease. Reports on the screening were published Monday, July 29, 2013, in Annals of Internal Medicine. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Government advisers say some current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer, to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says the CT scans of the lungs should be offered only to people at especially high risk. That group includes those who smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or an equivalent amount -- such as two packs a day for 15 years -- and who are between the ages of 55 and 80. That's roughly 10 million people.

But according to a vice chairman of the task force, University of Missouri family physician Dr. Michael LeFevre, even those high-risk people shouldn't be scanned if they're not healthy enough to withstand cancer treatment, or if they kicked the habit more than 15 years ago.

Lung cancer kills nearly 160,000 Americans each year. Smoking is the biggest risk factor.

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