Fear of CT Screenings Increase Lung Cancer Mortality

Caregivers need to encourage patients fearful of life-saving tests for cancer.

A clinical trial found that introducing a CT screening for lung cancer in the UK could significantly reduce mortality in high risk groups, without causing individuals any unnecessary stress or anxiety.

In the UK Lung cancer screening trial (UKLS), researchers examined the long-term psychosocial outcomes for screenings. There were more than 4000 women and men between the ages of 50- and 75-years-old at high risk of lung cancer enrolled in the study.

Participants were randomized into 2 groups, with one group who received a CT screening and the other that did not. The findings were published in Thorax.

In both groups, individuals were assessed after 2 weeks, and again 2 years later. Researchers used standard measures of lung cancer distress, anxiety, depression, and satisfaction in order to assess the participants’ emotional responses to CT lung screening.

The results of the study showed that the screening did not cause undue worry when participants were followed-up over the 2-year period. Although individuals who needed a repeat scan reported slightly higher cancer distress, the effect was temporary.

For those who were in the group that did not receive lung cancer screenings, results showed that more participants were dissatisfied with their decision to take part in the trial. Furthermore, the findings revealed that regardless of the group allocation, cancer distress was found to be higher in women, people who were under 65-years-old, current smokers, and those with lung cancer experience.

“Sometimes, fear of medical procedures and the results they might bring can prevent people from seeking life-saving tests,” said researcher Kate Brian. “However, what our trial shows is that CT lung cancer screening actually has no long-term negative psychosocial impact on patients, making it an excellent tool for catching lung cancer earlier when there is a better chance of survival.”

The findings will contribute to clinical and policy decisions regarding the successful and equitable implementation of potential future low-dose CT screening for high-risk individuals, the study concluded.

“With the UK’s 5-year survival rate for lung cancer being lower than many other countries with comparable health care systems, it is important that we do more to introduce early detection strategies that help to ensure treatment is delivered before patients present at an advanced stage of the disease,” Brain said.