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Lung Cancer Screening

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Author Erika Matich | Publish Date June 29, 2011

Results from the National Lung Screening Trial, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that patients who receive low-dose computerized tomography (LDCT) scans once per year for three years to detect lung cancer experience a 20 percent lower risk of death from lung cancer than those who are screened using standard chest X-rays. This finding led National Cancer Institute (NCI) investigators to halt the study early and release results.

“Of course, stopping smoking is by far the best way to prevent lung cancer, but the potential to detect it early through LDCT opens up new possibilities for reducing the suffering and death from this terrible disease,” said Tim Byers, MD, MPH, associate director for cancer prevention and control at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and chair of the Colorado LDCT Lung Cancer Screening Consensus. “However, as with other screening tests, it is important that we carefully consider both the benefits and the risks of screening.”

After national studies are published, it can take more than a year for national organizations to develop clinical guidelines about who should be screened, what method should be used, and how any abnormalities should be followed-up. While the public waits for national guidelines, a diverse group of Colorado experts are developing interim consensus information on the appropriate use of LDCT for lung cancer screening.

HealthTeamWorks, a nonprofit organization working to improve the quality and delivery of health care in Colorado, is bringing together radiologists from the University of Colorado Cancer Center, who took part in the National Lung Screening Trial, as well as, pulmonologists, lung cancer oncologists, preventive medicine specialists, primary care physicians, health plan representatives and patient advocates from across the state.

In August, the group will present advice regarding the following questions: which people may benefit from LDCT screening, what is an appropriate screening protocol, how should any abnormalities be followed up, how can any adverse effects be minimized and how can practitioners and the general public be fully informed about both the benefits and risks of screening"

“The work of our group will be critically important in helping clinicians interpret National Lung Screening Trial results as we wait for national guidelines to be developed,” said Byers. “Through this information, we hope to optimize the benefits and minimize the risks of this new type of screening.”

The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial, a randomized national trial involving more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers aged 55 to 74, compared the effects of two screening procedures for lung cancer—low-dose computerized tomography and standard chest X-ray. Smokers who had smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day for at least 30 years or former smokers who had stopped smoking no more than 15 years prior were included in the study.