Breakthrough Study Finds CT Scanning Can Detect Most Lung Cancer Cases Early


Feb 15, 2021


Image credit: Hanif Esmail

CT scanning can detect 70% of lung cancer cases in early, treatable stages, a breakthrough study out of the U.K. has found. With current screening methods, most lung cancer cases are not identified until the disease has reached later, often incurable stages. For this reason, among others, lung cancer is one of the world’s deadliest cancers.

With CT scanning, lung tumors were detected in stages 1 or 2, before the cancer had spread to other tissues.

“It’s really a major breakthrough for lung cancer,” study leader Dr. Sam Janes, of University College London Hospital, told The Guardian. “Lung cancer has never had anything that enabled us to detect this devastating cancer earlier and offer curative treatment to this number of lung cancer patients.”

The finding has vast potential in India, where lung cancer cases are on the rise due to worsening air pollution, even as smoking rates have lowered, according to data from the country’s major cancer treatment centers. India is home to 21 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution, labeled carcinogenic by the World Health Organization in 2013, has also been linked to oral and throat cancers.

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The U.K. study screened 12,100 smokers and ex-smokers between ages 55 and 78, who lived in the London area. Each underwent a computerized tomography (CT or CAT) scan, which provides a three dimensional and more detailed image of the body’s internal structures than standard X-ray imaging. The trial spotted 180 cases of lung cancer, of which 70% were in stages 1 or 2.

The researchers are calling for CT scans to become a standard screening among individuals at high risk of lung cancer, such as smokers or ex-smokers. They say such regular screening could reduce the number of men dying of lung cancer by 25% and the number of women’s deaths from the disease by 30% to 40%.

Including respiratory CT screenings as part of standard health check-ups, in India’s most polluted cities at the very least, has the potential to save many lives, as well as keep many families from financial ruin, given the cost of cancer care and the fact that lung cancer is more common among men, who are still the primary breadwinners in India.

“People [who were diagnosed during the CT trial] get out of hospital within three to five days and can get back to work or their usual routine within six weeks,” Dr. Janes said. “That’s stopped them from presenting to a doctor maybe 18 months later with a cancer that has spread and is often incurable.”


Written By Liesl Goecker

Liesl Goecker is The Swaddle’s managing editor.


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