What's New in Lung Cancer Screening?

August 28, 2013

By Joelle Thirsk Fathi, DNP

For too long lung cancer has been detected too late to benefit from the most effective treatments. Screening for lung cancer with Low Dose CT (LDCT) has been shown in large research trials to reverse this trend. There is now cause for optimism that screening has the potential to change the negative statistics around lung cancer.

The current reality is that lung cancer related deaths in our country has surpassed those of prostate, breast, and colon cancers combined. Although smokers are not the only people at risk for lung cancer they are at much higher risk than the average population. In fact, if they have a smoking history of 1 pack per day for 30 years or more, are actively smoking or have quit in the last 15 years and are now 55 years old or older, they are considered in a higher risk group for developing lung cancer and would benefit from being screened to detect lung cancer early and at a treatable state.

The last decade has been pivotal in better understanding how to effectively screen for lung cancer using low dose CT scanning. Large studies have demonstrated that patients who are at high risk and undergo CT screening for lung cancer, have their cancer detected in an earlier state and have a ten year survival of over 80% with treatment. This translates to a 20% decrease in the lung cancer mortality rates for patients who are in the highest risk group for lung cancer.

On July 30, 2013, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed professional health task force responsible for reviewing the research and evidence and making recommendations for all screening needs for the general population, made a formal recommendation statement in favor of lung cancer screening in high risk smokers.

This recommendation is currently open for public comment and expected to be formalized in the near future. This will directly influence health care providers’ recommendations and referrals for screening in high risk people and will positively improve the opportunity to detect lung cancer at earlier stages of the disease, reduce human suffering, reduce health care spending on lung cancer, and save many more lives.

To learn more about lung cancer screening, visit www.swedish.org/lcsp