cigarette on the ground
August 1, 2017

CT scans could help smokers kick the habit, study finds

Smokers who undergo a CT scan of their lungs are more likely to kick the habit than those who opt against the screening, which could detect lung cancer at an early stage, new research led by experts from Cardiff University and published in the journal Thorax has discovered.

The study involved 4,055 individuals between the ages of 50 and 75 who were divided into two groups – one who underwent low-dose CT screenings for lung-cancer and one who did not The University Paper explained. Smoking cessation rates were then tracked for each of the groups.

Just 5% of the smokers who did not participate in the screenings quit within two weeks, and 10% had kicked the habit after a two-year period, the researchers reported. Among smokers who had a CT scan, however, 10% quit within 14 days and 15% had kicked the habit within 24 months.

“The findings of this study dispute the belief that a negative screening result offers a ‘license to smoke,’” co-author John Field, a clinical professor of molecular oncology at the University of Liverpool, said in a statement. “Engaging with lung screening can give smokers an opportunity to access smoking cessation support – at a time when they are likely to be more receptive to offers of help.”

“Our trial shows that CT lung cancer screening offers a teachable moment for smoking cessation among high-risk groups in the UK,” added lead author Dr. Kate Brain of Cardiff University. “We now need evidence about the best ways of integrating lung cancer screening with stop-smoking support, so that services are designed to deliver the maximum health benefits.”

Screenings could help smokers who already want to quit

The study was the result of a UK Lung Cancer Screening (UKLS) pilot trial, which the authors said was the first to investigate the feasibility, cost-effectiveness and behavioral impact of using a single, low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer in a high-risk demographic of smokers.

Approximately 44,500 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK each year, and it has the highest mortality rate of all cancers among those citizens, the researchers explained. Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment program, the trial could provide doctors with a new tool to help smokers put down the cigarettes for good.

“The present study is the first to report the behavioral impact of CT screening in a UK high-risk population, and confirms the findings of previous trials that lung cancer screening does not falsely reassure smokers or reduce their motivation to stop smoking,” Dr. Brain, Professor Field and their colleagues wrote.

“Participating in the UKLS appeared to prompt smoking cessation overall, with a differential and positive effect of lung screening at short-term and longer-term follow-up,” they added. While the study involved a relatively small sample size and included only voluntary participants (who most likely would be more receptive to quitting), the authors said that “the current evidence suggests that an integrated package of CT lung screening and smoking cessation support has the potential to expedite quitting in smokers who are motivated and receptive.”

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