With lung cancer, early detection is critical to achieving better patient outcomes. Patients who are diagnosed when their cancer is still localized to the lungs have a five-year survival rate of 61.2%, according to data from the National Cancer Institute.1 But that rate plummets to just 7% for patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of their body before it’s detected.

The key to earlier diagnosis is preventive screening with a non-invasive, low-dose CT scan. But there’s a big problem: Many high-risk patients don’t know about it.

More than half of current smokers—54%—know little or nothing about lung cancer screening, according to data from Phreesia Life Sciences, which recently surveyed nearly 14,000 current and former smokers as they checked in for their doctors’ appointments. And only 28% of those who have smoked in their lifetimes, many of whom are also considered high-risk, say they’re aware of lung cancer screening.

Clearly, pharma marketers need to address this awareness gap to get patients the preventive health information they need. But the problem goes beyond awareness, the data shows.

Of the 28% of surveyed current or former smokers who did know about lung cancer screening, only 5% have actually been screened in the last 12 months, and only 11% plan to be screened in the next 12 months. This means that, in many cases, patients don’t just need to be made aware of screening—they need to be activated. And pharma marketers can motivate patients to act by reaching them at the point of care.

Empowering Patients to Get Screened

Connecting with patients before their doctors’ appointments ensures that marketers reach them when they’re already thinking about their health and preparing to talk with their provider. The point of care also can be a place to equip patients with resources such as doctor discussion guides that can facilitate productive provider conversations about the importance of lung cancer screening and where to find it.

But pharma marketers can go a step further by tailoring their point-of-care messaging. Even patients who know about lung cancer screening may still be hesitant to undergo it for many reasons. Those in underserved communities may be concerned about its cost or how to access it, and current or former smokers may struggle with feelings of shame or stigma. Others may be afraid of receiving a lung cancer diagnosis and unaware of new therapies.

Seeing the right message just before a doctor’s appointment—whether it’s patient-support information, content that addresses patients’ fears, or information on available treatment options—can help eliminate barriers to lung cancer screening and empower patients to take a more active role in their care.


1. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/lungb.html.

  • David Linetsky

    David Linetsky is Senior Vice President of Life Sciences at Phreesia, a leading point-of-care company that empowers life sciences brands to connect meaningfully with clinically relevant patients and deliver targeted health content in a one-to-one setting. David is also a member of the board of the Point of Care Marketing Association (POCMA), the point-of-care industry’s trade association.


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