Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. The number of people dying from lung cancer in the US per year is greater that the number of deaths from breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. Despite the scope of the problem of lung cancer, early detection has been the subject of debate. Recent studies have shown that low-dose CT screening for lung cancer in high-risk smokers can reduce cancer deaths. The detection of small lung cancers before spreading outside the lungs has been shown to save lives.
According to a newly published study, there’s more good news about CT lung screening for smokers age 55-75. This study shows the success of CT screening out in the communities - not just in academic centers. Naturally, the best way to save lives from lung cancer is to never use tobacco or to stop using it. But as long as patients are fighting the uphill battle for lung health, it is keenly important to fight it on all fronts, from prevention to early detection.
For successful lung cancer screening, CT scans must be “low dose”, referred to as LDCT. We are always conscious of and try to limit radiation dose wherever possible in our practice. The principle of imaging is using the lowest dose possible to achieve the images we need. Studies have shown we can safely use LDCT for early detection of lung cancer. This study in particular shows that low dose CT programs can hit the trifecta of helpfulness: they are effective in finding lung cancer, can be performed cost-effectively and can save lives. There you have it.
The January recommendation from the US Preventative Services Task Force said that high-risk patients could benefit greatly from regular low-dose CT screenings. This is timely news as the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are currently determining coverage feasibility. This recent study shows that execution and efficacy are possible!
Hopefully, we will be seeing programs develop and expand as a result of these findings. For those at high risk, lung cancer screening with low dose CT and early detection can be life changing and life saving.
Originally published 3/4/14 on diagnosticimagingcenterskc.com.