Lung Cancer Screening Significantly Increases 20-Year Survival Rate

Patients with lung cancer in an early-intervention lung screening program were found to have a survival rate nearly 20-times longer than patients with a late-stage diagnosis.

Screening lung cancer patients with low-dose computed tomography (CT) was found to improve the 20-year survival rate by up to 80%, according to a study by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. However, only 16% of patients with lung cancer are diagnosed at an early stage and fewer than 6% who are eligible for early screening get it.

“Symptoms occur mainly in late-stage lung cancer…Thus, the best way to find early-stage lung cancer is by enrolling in an annual screening program,” said lead author, Claudia Henschke, PhD, MD, professor of Diagnostic, Molecular and Interventional Radiology and director of the Early Lung and Cardiac Action Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, in a press release.

More than 50% of patients with lung cancer die within 1 year of diagnosis, largely due to late-stage diagnosis. As a result, lung cancer has become the leading cause of death from cancer. However, research suggests that low-dose CT screening is the most effective way to prevent death from lung cancer, according to the authors of the current study.

The US Preventative Services Task Force recommends adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 1 pack per day smoking history get annual lung cancer screening. They also recommend screening for patients who smoke, or have quit smoking, in the past 15 years.

“While screening doesn’t prevent cancers from occurring, it is an important tool in identifying lung cancers in their early stage when they can be surgically removed,” Henschke said in the press release.

In the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP), researchers looked at the 20-year survival rate of 1285 patients diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer. The early screening program was found to be a more effective tool for 20-year survival than either immunotherapy or targeted therapy.

“The key finding is that even after this long a time interval they are not dying of their lung cancer. And even if new lung cancers were found over time, as long as they continued with annual screening, they would be OK,” Henschke said in the press release.

For patients in the I-ELCAP who had either nonsolid cancerous lung nodules or nodules with a partly solid consistency, the survival rates were both 100%. Patients with a solid nodule had a 73% survival rate, and patients diagnosed with early Stage 1A cancers had a survival rate of 92% after 20 years.

Henschke has been an active supporter of low-dose CT screening for years as an effective way to detect cancer. The I-ELCAP, a multi-institution, multi-national research program, was created in 1992 to evaluate the efficacy of early lung cancer screening to improve overall survival rates.

“Ultimately, anyone interested in being screened needs to know that if they are unfortunate enough to develop lung cancer, it can be cured if found early,” Henschke said in the press release.

Reference

The Mount Sinai Hospital. Lung cancer screening dramatically increases long-term survival rate. News Release. EurekAlert. November 22, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/971744

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