Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
Results from Lung Cancer Screening Trial
I saw a news story last week about the lung cancer screening study. Does that mean those of us who are/were heavy smokers should be getting screened now?
Anil Vachani, MD, Attending Physician at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, responds:
The news story last week reported on initial findings from the National Lung Screening Trial. This study started in 2002 and was designed to compare annual Chest CT to chest x-ray in improving survival by detecting lung cancer earlier. A total of 53,000 people were included - indviduals in the study had to be between the ages of 55-74 and were current or previous heavy smokers (30 pack year history, pack year=#of packs per day x # of years smoked). The results show that Chest CT decreases deaths from lung cancer in this group by about 20%. This is the first time that a screening trial in lung cancer has shown a significant benefit. Although these results are quite encouraging, additional analyses of the results need to be performed before recommendations can made for the general population- those that have not smoked as much or never smoked. The final results will likely not be available until mid-2011. At this time, insurance companies and Medicare are not yet covering screening Chest CT for lung cancer, which can cost 300-400$. There is always a balance in screening tests between detecting cancer early versus finding things that turn out to not be cancer, but require invasive tests to do so. Read more about screening tests.
This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Lung Cancer Q&A Webchat. View the entire transcript Lung Cancer Q&A Webchat.