CT Scans for Lung Cancer Save Lives
A large, national study spanning eight years and involving more than 53,000 American adults confirms that CT screening in people at high risk for lung cancer reduces death from lung cancer by 20 percent. The study is published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States in both men and women. It kills more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and involved 33 centers in the United States, including Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Between August 2002 and April 2004 the high risk participants were randomly assigned to screenings with either a low dose CT scan or an x-ray once a year for three years. Cases of lung cancer and lung cancer deaths were tracked in those patients through the end of December 2009.
"This is the first study to confirm a significant improvement in survival in high risk smokers who undergo screening with CT scans," said Eric Anderson, MD, director Interventional Pulmonology at Georgetown University Hospital. "If we can detect lung cancer at its earliest stages, we have a chance to treat patients with a higher likelihood of a cure. There was also a 6.7 percent survival benefit due to other diseases that were discovered with these CT scans. We hope this news will allow people to start talking to their physicians to see if they are at high risk for lung cancer and to see if they might be a candidate for CT screening."
Initial results of the (NLST) were released in the fall of 2010 when the study was stopped early because the results were showing such clear benefit to participants receiving spiral CT scans versus those who received an x-ray.
Participants were considered at high risk for lung cancer and included those between age 55 and 74 with a history of cigarette smoking of at least 30 pack years. For example, someone who smoked one pack a day for 30 years or who smoked two packs a day for 15 years. Former smokers in the study had quit within the previous 15 years.
The NLST estimates that 7 million Americans fit the same criteria as those who participated in the study and it estimates that 94 million people in the United States are current or former smokers.
The American Cancer Society reports that those diagnosed early, stage 1A, have a five year survival rate of 49 percent. Patients diagnosed at stage IV have a five year survival of just one percent.
The American Cancer Society also estimates that in 2011 there will be more than 221,000 new cases of lung cancer in the United States and there will be close to 157,000 deaths.
For more information or to determine your next step in getting screened for lung cancer, please call 202-342-2400.
For more information about lung cancer treatment options, visit:
- Lung Cancer Program Brochure
- Lung Cancer Treatment with CyberKnife®
- Patient Stories
- News Room: Lung Cancer Diagnosis – GPS System for Traveling the Tiny Spaces of the Lung
- News Room: Patients with Early Stage Lung Cancer and Good Lung Function Have Excellent Survival Expectations When Treated with CyberKnife
- News Room: Georgetown Study Compares CyberKnife Radiosurgery with Standard Surgery for Lung Cancer
- Videos: Dr. Eric Anderson Ask-a-Doc Series