Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer, yet there is still no recommended screening tool. A new study published in the journal Radiology and conducted by the National Cancer Institute shows twenty percent fewer lung cancer deaths seen among those who were screened with low-dose spiral CT than with chest X-ray.
Alex Lechin, Pulmonologist and Critical Care Specialist with Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital, explains what the study means and how it affects treatment and diagnosis of lung cancer.
Low-dose CT scans better detect earlier stages of lung cancer than a standard chest X-ray, significantly cutting deaths from the disease, the National Cancer Institute announced today. The NCI’s study enrolled 53,000 current and former heavy smokers, ages 55 to 74, at 33 trial sites nationwide over a 20 month period beginning in August 2002. Participants were required to have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years and were either current or former smokers without signs, symptoms, or history of lung cancer. Pack-years are calculated by multiplying the average number of packs of cigarettes smoked per day by the number of years a person has smoked.
They were screened annually for three years by either CT scan or conventional chest X-rays and found those who had the CT screening were 20 percent less likely to die from lung cancer. The participants were then followed for up to another five years; all deaths were documented, with special attention given to the verification of lung cancer as a cause of death. At the conclusion of the study on October 20, 2010, a total of 354 deaths from lung cancer had occurred among participants in the CT arm of the study, whereas a significantly larger 442 lung cancer deaths had occurred among those in the chest X-ray group.
Lung cancer is the major cause of death from all cancers in United States, and is expected to cause 157,000 deaths in U.S. this year. The NCI’s data from this trial will be used to propose clinical guidelines and policy recommendations for lung cancer screening.
The study can be found here:
Memorial Hermann has the largest network of imaging centers in the Houston, Texas region, including low-dose spiral CT scanners. To find out more about Memorial Hermann’s CT scan imaging centers, visit