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CT Screening Could Avert Over 12,000 Deaths from Lung Cancer Every Year

According to an article recently published in the journal Cancer, screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) according to established guidelines could potentially avert over 12,000 deaths from lung cancer every year.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the entire world.

A main reason that lung cancer remains so deadly is that it causes no symptoms in its early stages. Patients typically do not realize they have lung cancer until it has spread to sites outside the lung, at which point a cure is rare. Therefore, focusing on screening for individuals who are at a high risk of developing the disease could potentially detect some cancers prior to symptoms, while it is still confined to its site of origin. If lung cancer can be caught and treated in its earliest stages, cure is possible.

Previous standard screening for individuals at a high risk of developing lung cancer was an x-ray. However, scanning technology continues to improve, allowing for more accurate types of scanning, such as computed tomography (CT) screening.

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLSCT), a pivotal lung cancer screening trial conducted between 2002 and 2009, revealed that screening with LDCT among individuals who are at a high risk of developing lung cancer could reduce mortality from the disease by approximately 20% compared to standard screening with x-rays.

Recently, the American Cancer Society conducted a study to determine exactly how many lives could be saved if screening guidelines set forth by the NLST would be adopted and fully implemented in the United States. This would include LDCT for individuals at a high-risk of developing lung cancer.

In 2010, approximately 6.8 million Americans would be eligible for LDCT screening.
Screening would have averted 12,250 deaths from lung cancer in 2010.
The researchers concluded that “The data from the current study indicate that LDCT screening could potentially avert approximately 12,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Further studies are needed to estimate the number of avertable lung cancer deaths and the cost-effectiveness of LDCT screening under different scenarios of risk, various screening frequencies, and various screening uptake rates.”

Reference: Ma J, Ward E, Smith R, Jemal A. Annual number of lung cancer deaths potentially avertable by screening in the United States.. Cancer. 2013;119 (7): 1381–1385.