Screening with Lung CT Scans Could Reduce Lung Cancer Deaths by One Quarter

Screening Could Reduce Lung Cancer Deaths by One Quarter

Liam Davenport

July 14, 2021

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with nearly 2 million fatalities per year, but these deaths could be reduced by a quarter with more targeted lung screening, argues a new report.

Screening of high-risk individuals with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) has been shown in clinical trials to shift the diagnosis of lung cancer to earlier stages.

This could “transform lung cancer from a fatal to a treatable condition, with considerable impact on quality of life” as well as a “considerable reduction in the number of deaths from lung cancer.”

It also points out that fewer screens are required to prevent one lung cancer death than for other cancer types. The NELSON study found that one life could be saved for every 320 LDCT scans administered. This compares with one life saved for 864 tests for colorectal cancer and between 645 to 1724 scans for breast cancer.

However, screening for lung cancer is not as widely available as for breast and colorectal cancers.

The report argues it is time for national governments to consider large-scale implementation of targeted lung cancer screening.

The report, Lung cancer screening: the cost of inaction, was issued by the Lung Ambition Alliance on July 8 to mark its second anniversary.

This group describes itself as a “partnership of diverse organizations united in the quest to eliminate lung cancer as a cause of death.” The founding partners were the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), Guardant Health, the Global Lung Cancer Coalition, and AstraZeneca.

Shifting Diagnosis to Earlier Stages

“If you are able to make the diagnosis earlier you will get a higher proportion of patients in stage I or stage II that are potentially susceptible to radical resection,” explained Giorgio Scagliotti, MD, PhD, from the University of Torino at San Luigi Gonzaga Hospital in Torino, Italy. He is also interim chief science officer of the IASLC and the group’s past president.