Lung Cancer Screening: Advantages, Controversies, and Applications

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Background: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Results from the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) have shown that low-dose computed tomography (CT) is capable of detecting lung neoplasms in individuals at high risk. However, whether it is advantageous to perform lung cancer screening on these patients is a significant concern, as are the potential adverse outcomes from screening.

Methods: A review of several randomized clinical trials, focusing on the NLST, was undertaken. Adverse outcomes and costs related to lung cancer screening were also examined.

Results: Lung cancer screening using low-dose CT in high-risk individuals reduced lung cancer deaths by more than 20% when compared with those screened by chest radiography. False-positive results were seen in both groups, but the number of adverse events from the screening test and subsequent diagnostic procedures was low.

Conclusions: Lung cancer screening is controversial, but the NLST has demonstrated that such testing may reduce lung cancer deaths in high-risk individuals when performed with low-dose CT rather than chest radiography. Guidelines should be established to not only help identify an appropriate screening population, but also develop standards for radiological testing.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Cancer Control, v. 21, issue 1, p. 9-14