NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — More than five million smokers and former smokers are now recommended to get annual lung cancer screenings. The American Cancer Society released its new screening guidelines this week.

New guidelines from The American Cancer Society recommend yearly screenings for people aged 50 to 80 who smoke or who used to smoke and have a 20 year or greater pack history.

Dr. Bruce Waldholtz, who sits on the ACS Cancer Action Network’s National Board of Directors explained what that means.

“A pack year is smoking one pack a day for one year,” Waldholtz said. “So, if you think of somebody who smokes a pack a day and they started at age 20, at age 40 they have a 20 pack year history.”

Waldholtz told WAVY that it’s not just current smokers, but even those who smoked decades ago, are at a much higher risk for lung cancer.

“In the past, if somebody had not smoked for 15 years, they were no longer recommended to undergo screening,” Waldholtz said, “and the thought was that perhaps the risk was no longer there. Recent data has shown that’s not the case.”

The annual screening is a low dose CT scan. It is quick and painless, but like mammograms and other cancer screenings, it may result in a false positive reading. That could lead to more invasive tests and anxiety, but the benefits of catching cancer early, Waldholtz insists, far outweigh the risk.

“Please talk to your doctor and talk to your family members if they are smokers,” he said, “so you can save a life in your own family.”