CBS News: Lung Cancer Test Cuts the Risk of Dying
In November 2010, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) released initial results from the National Lung Screening Trial, a large-scale test of screening methods used to detect cancers early, in hopes of reducing lung cancer deaths.
The national trial involving more than 53,000 current and former heavy smokers from the ages of 55 to 74, compared the effects of two screening procedures for lung cancer -- computed tomography (CT) and standard chest X-ray -- on lung cancer mortality and found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with low-dose helical CT; see details here.
As reported by the NCI, if lung cancer is caught in early stages the 5-year survival rate is 53%, however, the overall 5-year survival rate is only 15%, which has remained virtually unchanged for the past 40 years. This report is the first substantive indication that early detection of lung cancer can lead to reductions in lung cancer mortality rates.
As reported by this CBS News story, “no cancer kills more Americans than lung cancer. Estimates are more than 220,000 will be diagnosed this year and 157,000 will die.”
Lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer for men, women and all ethnic groups. The CBS News story also goes on to note some of the key issues with utilizing CT scanning for lung cancer. The most notable of these are as follows:
- The potential for a high level of false positives. Studies of long term smokers have shown as many as 40-60% of those undergoing a CT Scan will exhibit abnormalities, such as a pulmonary nodule or a spot on the lung. That means if 1000 heavy smokers were screened using CT, as many as 400-600 would exhibit lung abnormalities, even though most are not cancerous.
- Cost for a CT scan can be prohibitive. Though it is reported in the CBS News story that the cost is $300-400, that is typically on the low end. In our discussions with healthcare professionals, CT scans usually run around $600, and can be upwards of $1,000. Additionally, they not necessarily covered by most insurance plans for the purpose of lung cancer screening.
- There is radiation exposure with CT scanning, even with low dose CT scans. According to the CBS News story CT delivers 15 times more radiation than a chest X-ray. This is substantial. Look for an upcoming post that further explores radiation exposure in more detail.
The concerns of false positives, cost and radiation exposure are why using a biological test like EarlyCDT-Lung in combination with imaging can potentially provide an effective approach to early detection and minimize some of these adverse factors.
To learn more about the risk you or a loved one personal have for lung cancer, use our Free Lung Cancer Risk Assessment Tool today.