Posts Tagged ‘reduce’
Study: CT scans slightly reduce lung-cancer deaths – Philadelphia Inquirer
Last Updated on Friday, 5 November 2010 03:04 Written by admin Friday, 5 November 2010 03:04
Posted on Fri, Nov. 5, 2010
WASHINGTON – Screening heavy smokers with a special type of CT scan modestly reduces lung-cancer deaths, the National Cancer Institute announced Thursday – the first clear evidence that a screening test may help fight the nation’s top cancer killer.
At issue are controversial spiral CT scans, where a rotating scanner views the lungs at various angles to spot growths when they are about half the size that a standard chest X-ray can detect.
X-ray screening hasn’t proved powerful enough to reduce lung-cancer deaths. Some previous studies had suggested that CTs might go that next step, even as other research questioned whether they would do more harm than good by spotting too many benign growths.
To settle the debate, the massive National Lung Screening Trial enrolled 53,000 current or former heavy smokers – a pack a day for 30 years – who had no initial symptoms of cancer. It found 20 percent fewer deaths from lung cancer among those screened with spiral CTs than among those given chest X-rays, the NCI said Thursday.
Although the difference was significant enough that the study was ended early, it was fairly modest: 354 died in the spiral CT group over the eight-year study, compared with 442 deaths among those who got chest X-rays.
Still, “this finding has important implications for public health, with the potential to save many lives among those at greatest risk for lung cancer,” said NCI director Harold Varmus.
Stopping smoking remains the best protection, he said.
The scans aren’t risk-free. False alarms can trigger unnecessary repeat tests and even surgery. And doctors don’t yet know who would be the best candidates or how often the scans should be done.
At the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, one of 33 sites conducting the massive study, radiologist Drew A. Torigian said the reduction in deaths did not mean CT screening would make sense on a large scale.
“Right now, all they’ve released is the benefits,” said Torigian, who led the enrollment and screening of 386 people at Penn. “There are still a lot of analyses to be done to know if this will be a practical tool. If the costs of unnecessary diagnostic procedures and the risks associated with screening are too high, then it may not be practical.”
The NCI will analyze and publish additional data from the study in the next few months so that expert groups can begin making recommendations for screening.
One question, Torigian said, is whether screening changes behavior. For example, detection of an abnormality that turns out to be benign might motivate a smoker to quit – or to feel complacent about continuing to smoke.
“My advice is anyone who smokes should quit as soon as possible,” he said, calling lung cancer just one of many deadly ills linked to smoking.
About 200,000 new lung cancers are diagnosed and 159,000 people die of the disease each year in the United States. It is most often diagnosed at advanced stages, and the average five-year survival rate is just 15 percent.
Many smokers already had sought out spiral CTs, even though the American Cancer Society has not recommended the test for screening, and most insurers don’t cover the $ 300 to $ 400 cost unless the patient has symptoms of cancer.