November 30, 2004

Lung Cancer CT Scans May Save Lives

CHICAGO -- Using computerized scans to screen for lung cancer can help save lives and should be part of a regular checkup for people who have a high risk for the disease, a new study says.

Ninety-six percent of the patients in the study diagnosed with lung cancer through CT scans and had the cancer removed found that the disease did not return, said the study's lead investigator, Claudia Henschke, a radiology professor and head of chest imaging at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The earlier lung cancer is found, the better the patients' chances of survival.

Henschke was to present the findings today at the annual Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago.

Lung cancer causes most cancer deaths, killing more people than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society. The disease is often diagnosed at advanced stages when it is incurable and has an average five-year survival rate of only 15 percent.

CT, or computed tomography, scans allow doctors to find the cancer in its earlier stages. It involves scanners that view the lungs and surrounding tissue at different angles and can spot growths small as a grain of rice. The tests cost hundreds of dollars, are usually not covered by insurance and can lead to more procedures such as surgery.

The study, called the International Early Lung Cancer Action project, reviewed about 27,000 cases of people who were at a high risk for lung cancer. More than 400 of those patients were diagnosed with cancer, mostly in the early stages.