New Lung Cancer Screening Technique Could Improve Survival
While several similar, small trials of this screening tool are now underway,
the NIH is considering a national randomized clinical trial -- considered the
gold standard for assessing the value and guidelines used in such procedures,
Other national smoking cessation programs generally get about 6% of smokers
to quit, whereas the ELCAP program inspired 20% to give up their habit. "We
consider a cessation rate of over 20% as very good," Joann Shellenbach, a
spokesman for the American Cancer Society, tells WebMD.
More than 171,000 lung cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year and
158,000 people die from the disease -- a greater death toll than breast cancer,
prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer combined.
Lung cancer is considered one of the deadliest cancers, largely because it
is typically not detected in the early stages, when it is most curable.
"There are no symptoms in the early stages," says Shellenbach.
"Rarely is it found [in the very early stages]. Usually that's a
serendipitous finding when the patient is having surgery for another reason.
Occasionally, it might show up on a chest X-ray. And on the rare occasions it
does turn up, it can be treated for a cure."
By the time patients develop symptoms -- shortness of breath, coughing,
bloody sputum -- the cancer has grown to the size of an orange, or has spread
to other organs. "In cancers caught at the later stage, there's a 10% to
14% five-year survival rate, whereas for those caught early, survival moves up
to 80%," she says.
In later stages of lung cancer, "There's a lot of discomfort because of
the fluid that builds up. People have lot of trouble with it. If you marched
school children through places where we treat people for lung cancer, we would
have a lot less children smoking," says Shellenbach. "There's the
difficulty breathing ... it's like drowning in your own fluid. It affects your
life enormously. For decades, there has been a desire to find a screening tool
for lung cancer."
- A new scanning technique can detect lung cancer while it is still in the
early, curable stage.
- More than one-fifth of patients who view their lung scans actually quit
- Researchers are still unsure about which populations should get the lung
scans and how often they should be given.