L34 — August 2011 — Lung Cancer Screening
Intro: For many years, doctors have known that screening for certain cancers saves lives. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are two examples. Now you can add lung cancer to that list. The National Lung Screening Trial results show screening people at high risk of lung cancer with CT scans saves lives.
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On most days, you can find Sue Schiffler surrounded by her grandkids.
They always say I'm they're second mom.
These kids are one of the reasons Sue quit smoking — she had a pack a day habit for more than 30 years.
My grandkids say, "You know grandma, you have to live another 30 years."
But she didn't quit soon enough. 10 years after Sue kicked the habit, she entered the national lung screening trial. It revealed a small cancer.
This was a study with the C-T scanners to see if early detection of lung cancer can save lives.
Dr. Stephen Swensen and Dr. David Midthun were investigators in the study, which compared screening for lung cancer in high-risk patients with X-rays versus C-T scans.
It showed actual lives were saved, mortality reduction. Fewer people died of lung cancer who got C-T screening than who got chest X-ray screening.
Previous studies showed that C-T scans can find cancers long before they would show up on X-rays. They can spot cancers as tiny as a grain of rice. This is the first study that shows finding them early, while they're still curable with surgery, saves lives.
It showed a 20 percent reduction in mortality of people dying from lung cancer.
That statistic means screening would potentially save 30,000 lives a year. But using a C-T scanner to screen for cancer isn't perfect. One of the problems is that most abnormalities that show up on C-T scans are not cancers. So doctors have to do some sleuthing to figure out which ones should be surgically removed. That often involves waiting and screening again months later to see if it grows.
And if it's changed in size, then we more closely monitor it.
Then biopsy it and, if necessary, remove it. Sue had her cancer surgically removed eight years ago.
I'm just so happy that they did find it because I probably would not be here today.
She's still here. Cancer-free, and spending nearly every day with her grandkids. For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Now that the study has shown C-T screening saves lives, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society will make recommendations as to who should be screened and how often.
Dr. Midthun says even though screening may help save lives, the best way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke.
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