July 5, 2011

CT Scanning Reduces Lung Cancer Death

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study reveals current or heavy smokers who were screened with low-dose spiral computed tomography (CT) scanning had a 20-percent reduced risk of death from lung cancer when compared to patients who were screened via chest X-ray.

Researchers enrolled 53,454 men and women in the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST). Participants had either a current or former smoking history of at least 30 pack-years and did not have any symptoms of lung cancer. They were randomly assigned to receive three annual screenings with either low-dose spiral CT or the standard chest X-ray.

Spiral CT uses X-rays to obtain multiple "slices" through the entire chest cavity during a seven to 15-second breath-hold. The standard chest X-ray only requires a sub-second breath-hold and produces just a single image of the whole chest where anatomic structures overlie one another.

Researchers say the NLST establishes low-dose spiral CT as the first validated screening test that reduces lung cancer mortality.

"These findings confirm that low dose CT screening can decrease deaths from lung cancer, which is expected to kill more than 150,000 Americans this year alone," Dr. Denise R. Aberle, from UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, was quoted as saying. "This study also will provide us with a road map for public policy development in terms of lung cancer screening in the years to come."

Researchers point at that major limitations of CT screenings are abnormal findings and/or false-positive screens. More studies based on the NLST data are ongoing.

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, June 29, 2011