Smokers, Look Out for These Lung Cancer Symptoms

Recent research has demonstrated that annual low-dose screening CT Scans can save more lives from lung cancer than normal chest X-rays. Learn about these new guidelines and the symptoms – especially if you’re a smoker.

Here are key points from Dr. Clyburn-Ipock’s comments:

New guidelines have recently come out on lung cancer. These should be discussed with patients who smoke and their primary care physician.

In patients that have a substantial smoking history – a 30-pack year history, that are between the ages of 55 to 80 years old – it is now recommended that they undergo an annual low-dose CT scan to screen for any lung lesions or nodules.

There was actually data published in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggested that patients who have an annual low-dose CT scan — in comparison to a chest X-ray — have a lower mortality from lung cancer if it is diagnosed.

Patients with lung cancer will sometimes have symptoms before a nodular mass is found on a chest X-ray or CT scan. These symptoms may include an unusual cough that is persistent, increased trouble breathing and blood in the sputum.

Often patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer will have COPD, which is unfortunately often caused from years of smoking. It’s very important if you are smoker, number one that you quit, and that you are aware of the symptoms that can indicate there could be something worrisome going on.

If you have an unusual cough that is persistent, or if you cough up any blood, or have pain when you take a big deep breath in certainly discuss these symptoms with your primary care physician.

It is also very important for patients who have a long smoking history to discuss with their primary care physician the guidelines for cancer screening that have just been updated.


In December 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening for lung cancer using a low-dose CT in a specific group of patients:

  • Age 55 to 80, who have also had a:
  • Cumulative smoking history of 30-pack years or more (Smoking one pack a day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years).
  • And, who are still smoking or who have this history but stopped smoking in the last 15 years.

If you meet these criteria, you are a candidate for receiving annual low-dose CT scans.

For more information on the McLeod Lung Cancer Screening Program, click here or call 843-777-5640.

Have a question?  Ask a cancer specialist.