“Lung cancers account for more than one-quarter of cancer deaths in the United States, and the disease is expected to kill nearly 160,000 Americans in 2016 alone. Early detection, which occurs in just 15% of cases, remains the best avenue to longterm survival; about half of patients found to have an early-stage lung cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis, compared with fewer than 5% of patients whose cancers are detected after metastasis.
“The National Lung Screening Trial studied more than 53,000 patients and demonstrated that low-dose helical computed tomography (CT) is more effective at lung cancer early detection than standard chest X-rays, yielding—over an observation period of about 7 years—a 20% lower risk of dying from the disease. The trial enrolled only symptomless current or former smokers ages 55 to 74 who had a smoking history of 30 packyears (that is, a pack a day for 30 years, or 2 packs a day for 15 years) and who had been smokers within the prior 15 years.”
“The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended computerized tomography (CT) lung screening for people at high risk for cancer, but a potential problem with CT is that many patients will have positive results on the screening test, only to be deemed cancer-free on further testing. Many policymakers have expressed concern that this high false-positive rate will cause patients to become needlessly upset. A new study of National Lung Screening Trial participant responses to false positive diagnoses, however, finds that those who received false positive screening results did not report increased anxiety or lower quality of life compared with participants who received negative screen results.
” ‘Most people anticipated that participants who were told that they had a positive screen result would experience increased anxiety and reduced quality of life. However, we did not find this to be the case,’ said Ilana Gareen, assistant professor (research) of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health and lead author of the study published in the journal Cancer.
“The NLST’s central finding, announced in 2010, was that screening with helical CT scans reduced lung cancer deaths by 20 percent compared to screening with chest X-rays. The huge trial spanned more than a decade, enrolling more than 53,000 smokers at 33 sites.”