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Spiral CT Scans Can Detect Lung Cancer While Still Curable

Annual spiral computed tomography screening of at-risk patients can boost survival

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Yearly spiral computed tomography (CT) screening exams of at-risk individuals can detect lung cancer at a point when it may still be curable, according to a report in the Oct. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Claudia I. Henschke, M.D., Ph.D., of New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, and colleagues from the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program, screened 31,567 asymptomatic individuals at risk for lung cancer using spiral CT from 1993 to 2005. They re-screened 27,456 participants seven to 18 months after initial screening.

Spiral CT picked up 484 cases of lung cancer, of which 85 percent were clinical stage I with an estimated 10-year lung cancer specific survival rate of 88 percent. Moreover, the survival rate was 92 percent among 302 stage I patients who underwent resection within a month of diagnosis, while eight stage I cancer patients who did not receive treatment died within five years following their diagnosis. Researchers point out that the cost effectiveness of spiral CT for lung cancer rivals that of mammograms for breast cancer.

The new findings are "a provocative, welcome salvo in the long struggle to reduce the tremendous burden of lung cancer on society," writes Michael Unger, M.D., of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, in an accompanying editorial.

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