Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Study: CT Screening Cuts Lung Cancer Deaths

CT Scans May Be Better Screening Method Than X-Rays for People at High Risk of Lung Cancer

Rate of False-Positives

In both groups, 95% or more of these suspicious early screens turned out to be false positives.

This was usually confirmed with follow-up CT scans, which showed no change over time. But in some cases the false-positive readings also led to more invasive testing, including PET imaging, lung biopsy, and exploratory lung surgery.

Study researcher Christine Berg, MD, of the National Cancer Institute, tells WebMD that the complication rate from the initial screening and the invasive follow-up testing was very low.

Low-dose CT delivers much less radiation than a traditional chest CT, but the potential long-term risks of screening, including follow-up of false positives with higher-radiation imaging, could not be measured in the study.

"The data are telling us that the benefits of screening outweigh the risks in this population of heavy smokers and former smokers in this particular age group," Berg says.

The finding of a 20% reduction in lung cancer deaths was so impressive that an independent monitoring board stopped the study last year.

Cost of Screening

The researchers estimate that about 7 million Americans meet the qualifications for screening under the study guidelines. The cost of screening just these smokers and former smokers would easily reach billions of dollars a year.

The National Lung Screening Trial researchers are conducting a cost analysis of the study data to present to health policy makers. Berg says the analysis may be completed by the end of the year.

University of Michigan professor of radiology Ella Kazerooni, MD, says questions will remain about the costs vs. benefits of population-wide lung cancer screening even after the analysis is complete.

Kazerooni chairs the American College of Radiology Panel on Thoracic Imaging and she was a study investigator.

"The study participants were 55 to 74 at enrollment, so we can't really say whether screening is effective for younger smokers or older ones," she tells WebMD.

Risks vs. Benefits

A single low-dose CT scan costs around $300, and smokers and former smokers who want the test now will probably have to pay for it themselves.

"The message right now would have to be 'Let the buyer beware,'" Kazerooni says. "Someone who gets this test has about a 40% chance of having additional tests, and only a very small minority of these people will have lung cancer."

Today on WebMD

Broken cigarette
Do you know the myths from the facts?
man with a doctor
Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
cancer fighting foods
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
Pets Improve Your Health
Vitamin D
Lung Cancer Surgery Options