Longtime heavy smokers should add a yearly chore to their medical regimen, says an influential federal panel: Get a CT scan. Specifically, the panel recommends that people 55 to 79 who have smoked a pack a day for 30 years should get the tests, even if they've long since quit the habit, reports LiveScience. The CT scans would replace the current recommendation of yearly chest X-rays, reports the Boston Globe. And because the move is strongly recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force, insurance companies would have to cover the $300 to $400 cost.
"This is the first time we've had science that tells us that we can actually avoid some lung cancer deaths through screening," a vice chairman of the task force tells the Shots blot at NPR. "So this is really a big change." The move is somewhat controversial, because it brings with it dangers such as overdiagnosis and overtreatment, but the panel thinks the benefits outweigh the risks. They estimate that the scans will save 20,000 lives a year, once the recommendation officially goes into place later this year. (Read more lung cancer stories.)