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Understanding the Lung Scan and How to Calculate Pack-Years

The amount you smoke over time has a cumulative effect on your risk for cancer. It puts you at a higher risk for certain types of cancer, including common lung cancers. One way to determine your risk is by calculating your pack-years.

Simply put, a pack-year is a measurement of the number of cigarettes you consume over a period of time. To calculate, you’ll need the number of years smoked and the average number of cigarettes smoked during that period of time.

Calculating Pack-Years

Here’s how it works: one pack per day for one year = one pack-year. The number of packs of cigarettes you smoke daily is used to calculate the corresponding amount of pack-years by using a simple ratio. For instance, if you smoked one pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years, you have smoked 30 pack-years. If you smoked two packs per day for 15 years, you would have the same number of pack-years: 30. In comparison, one-half pack per day for 30 years would only equal 15 pack-years.

A high number of pack-years can put you at a higher risk of developing lung cancer. However, pack-years are only part of the story. When you combine a high number of pack-years with other risk factors, your risk for developing cancer increases. Environmental, work-related, or a family history of cancer all contribute to that risk.

Lung Scans and Early Detection

The great news? Low-dose lung scans can help detect cancers long before they become life-threatening conditions.

Working hand-in-hand with your physician, the fellowship-trained radiologists at Medical Imaging of Fredericksburg can offer non-invasive, low radiation medical imaging options. These scans help spot any potential problems while also providing vital information your doctor needs for your medical care.

If you are a long-term smoker, a low-dose lung scan is a simple (yet vital) step toward good health. A lung scan can bring peace of mind–and it may even save your life.

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