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CT Screening Reduces Lung Cancer Deaths

CT (computed tomography) screening can reduce lung cancer deaths among high-risk individuals, according to results from the National Lung Cancer Study.

The research was conducted by the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) which issued guidelines recommending that people who are at significant risk of lung cancer, due to age and smoking history, should be offered annual low-dose CT (computed tomography) screening by their doctor.

People who are at increased risk of lung cancer include current smokers aged 55 to 74 with over 30 pack-years of smoking, or former smokers who fit that profile who have kicked the habit within the last 15 years.

A pack-year is a measure described as smoking 20 cigarettes every day for 12 months – approximately 7 million people fall under that category, David Midthun, chest physician at the Mayo Clinic, said, according to Reuters.

The experts conducted a report, referred to as the National Lung Cancer Study, which analyzed 53,000 current or former heavy smokers.

The scientists discovered that CT scanning reduced mortality from lung cancer in these high-risk individuals by 20%, as opposed to no screening or to X-rays. This is because CT identifies small cancers that can be cured with surgery, something that X-rays cannot do.

Guideline Panel Chair, W. Michael Alberts , MD, MBA, FCCP, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL., said:

“Our new lung cancer guidelines take into account the many advances and new information in the field by providing comprehensive and nuanced recommendations related to prevention, screening, diagnosis, staging, and medical and surgical treatments.

It also showcases the importance of multidisciplinary, team-based care when it comes to effective lung cancer treatment-collaborative decisions based on collective knowledge provide the most comprehensive patient-focused care.”

However, “requests for CT screening from smokers slightly outside the new guidelines is an issue we’ll face”, Dr Peter Mazzone, a lung expert at the Cleveland Clinic, said, according to TopNews.

A previous study in BMJ (British Medical Journal) showed that people diagnosed with early stage lung cancer can double their chances of survival over five years if they quit smoking, compared to those who continue to smoke.

Lung cancer continues to be the number one cause of cancer deaths among men and women in the U.S. and across the world. It results in more deaths than the next 4 most common cancers combined, including cancers of the colon, breast, pancreas and prostate, and a study from 2012 showed that there has been an increase in the number of non-smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer.

Frank Detterbeck, MD, FCCP, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and Vice-Chair of the Guidelines Panel, said:

“Lung cancer screening offers a potential benefit for select individuals, but it is not a substitute for stopping smoking. However, screening is not a scan, it is a process. We have much to learn as we embark upon implementation of screening. Education on screening is the key to overcoming misconceptions and misguided fears. The guidelines include recommendations that help the patient and physician with the decision process. It provides a structure that gives a clearer interpretation of what we know and what we can only speculate.”

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