The History of Screening for Lung Cancer: How Advanced Screening Is Changing Today’s Lung Cancer Awareness

Prevent Cancer! Save Lives! Publicity abounds for cancer screenings, and that’s a good thing. But some cancers get more attention than others. For example, the NFL wears pink in October for Breast Cancer Awareness; the internet features copious lists of Famous Men Who Have Had Prostate Cancer, and Katie Couric is still credited with revolutionizing colon cancer and screening awareness when she underwent a live colonoscopy back in March 2000 on NBC’s Today.

This begs the question: What about lung cancer? It’s the second most common cancer in men and women, and the leading cause of cancer deaths for both genders. Who’s shouting into the megaphone for lung cancer screening/awareness? Until recently, not many.

Lung Cancer Screening Awareness: Past and Present

Cancer screening is defined as testing a person who is at risk for a disease, but who does not exhibit signs or symptoms of it. The goal of cancer screening is detection at a stage in which a cure is possible. The desired end result is the reduction of mortality in the screened population.

Awareness of lung cancer screening has traditionally played backup to the more high-profile cancers, but major developments have accelerated the screening discussion. For example, this year, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) has increased its World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) frequency to an annual event because “the science of lung cancer is advancing so rapidly.” Meanwhile, October has been designated as Healthy Lung Month and November as Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

Breakthrough Lung Cancer Screening Changes the Future

The search for an ideal lung cancer screening test began as far back as the 1960s. Although there was some progress, the study results were often subject to inherent problems and biases. The Early Lung Cancer Action Project (ELCAP) began in 1993 by comparing CT scans with X-rays for lung cancer detection. It determined that CT scans were more sensitive to detection, but advanced stage cancers did not decrease with this finding alone.

It was the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) that truly moved the needle. The NLST, designed to determine if low-dose CT screening could reduce lung cancer mortality, was funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American College of Radiology Imaging Network (ACRIN). It was the first randomized controlled screening trial for lung cancer.

The NLST was conducted from 2002 to 2010. This study revealed that those who received the low-dose helical CT scans had a 15 to 20 percent lower risk of lung cancer death than those who received standard chest X-rays. (This is the equivalent of approximately three fewer lung cancer deaths per 1,000 people in the CT group as compared to the chest X-ray group.) The proof was so overwhelming that CT scans were successful in early detection, researchers actually stopped the study to ensure all participants got the scan!

This clearly revolutionized lung cancer screening, exposing people to radically smaller doses of radiation and finding certain cancers at the earliest stages.

According to the American College of Radiation, lung cancer screening of high-risk individuals using low-dose CT is now in demand. At Thoracic Group, not only can we provide all the necessary details of lung cancer screenings, including who qualifies and where lung cancer screening centers are located, but we also provide expert reviews of screening and second opinions.

Expert Screening Review and Second Opinions

Lung cancer screenings and targeted therapies are still relatively new modalities. Obviously, diagnosis and treatment of this or any other cancer can be daunting. Patients want to be well-informed and confident with their treatment plans.

The Lung Cancer Alliance, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other organizations agree that getting an expert review of your screening or a second opinion about a lung cancer diagnosis is a wise choice.

At Thoracic Group, we have a track record of establishing and implementing successful lung screening programs. We provide a second opinion of lung screening done by other specialists, and we do an expert review for those who have been referred for a scan by primary care physicians, and who seek a specialist to evaluate their results.

It is one thing to know the facts and statistics, but for true perspective, it is inspiring to know a life that has been saved. The benefits of potential lives saved illustrates the extent to which new research and improved technology have revolutionized the field of screening for lung cancer.

Consulting a Specialist

If you recently had a scan, have been diagnosed or need a second opinion or expert review, our team of specialists will help evaluate findings and devise a treatment plan that is right for you.

As the pioneers of video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), we have decades of experience in minimally invasive surgical treatment and can provide our patients with helpful information on their conditions. Our Thoracic Group surgeons work in collaboration with a team of specialists including oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, pathologists and nurse navigators.

For more information on lung cancer screenings and a second opinion or expert review, please contact Thoracic Group today.