Free Lung Cancer Screening Findings Support Continual Screenings in High-Risk Populations

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The number of lung cancer cases found in an early, treatable stage highlights the need for continual accessible free screening to high-risk populations.
The number of lung cancer cases found in an early, treatable stage highlights the need for continual accessible free screening to high-risk populations.

A free lung cancer screening program in Augusta, Georgia, found more than double the lung cancer rate of previous screenings.1 "Lung cancer is still the number one cancer killer in the United States and in our world," said Dr. Carsten Schroeder, MD, thoracic oncology surgeon at the Georgia Cancer Center and Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University (AU) and senior researcher of the study published in Southern Medical Journal, in a statement. "If we catch it in the early stages, ideally before symptoms surface, we can operate and patients can have an overall survival rate of 90%."2

Free low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screening was provided to 264 high-risk persons who smoked a pack of cigarettes daily for 2 or 3 decades or quit smoking the equivalent amount less than 15 years ago. Three percent of participants had lung cancer, 75% of which were caught early enough to be treatable. The rate of lung cancer detection in patients with no symptoms was approximately 2.2%.

A similar study in Massachusetts at Lahey Hospital Medical Center found a lung cancer rate of 0.6% in the first 10 months; and the original National Lung Screening Trial of 33 large urban areas found a lung cancer rate of 1.1% the first year.

Schroeder's participants were younger, with an average age of 60 years and started smoking earlier in life, with a roughly even male/female split. Approximately 68% of participants were white and approximately 20% were black. The average median household income for the area is 27% lower than the national average and the poverty level is 67% higher, according to the US Census Bureau.1

The high rate of lung cancer and the number of cases found in an early, treatable stage highlights the need for continual accessible free screening to high-risk populations and underserved areas.  Screenings continue in Augusta, with a current total of an estimated 700 persons screened and hopes to expand statewide.

References

1. Simmerman EL, Thomson NB, Dillard TA, et al. Free lung cancer screening trends toward a twofold increase in lung cancer prevalence in the underserved southeastern United States. South Med J. 2017;110(3):188-194. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000619

2. Free lung-cancer screening in the Augusta area finds more than double the cancer rate of previous screenings [news release]. August, GA: Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University; March 9, 2017. EurekAlert Web site. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-03/mcog-fls030917.php. Accessed March 27, 2017.

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