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CT Scans Reduce Lung Cancer Deaths, Study Confirms

But questions remain about widespread screening

continued...

Most of those suspicious spots and nodules weren't actually cancerous.

After follow-up, lung cancer was diagnosed in 1.1 percent of the patients in the CT group and 0.7 percent of the X-ray group, the researchers reported in the May 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The CT scans were much more likely to pick up lung cancer in its early, more treatable stages: stage 1 cancer was found in 158 CT scan patients versus 70 X-ray patients, according to the study.

Brawley said, however, that screening comes with a price, and not just the cost of the scans, which can be expensive. About 1 percent of cancers are thought to be caused by radiation used in medicine, he said. That raises the prospect that some people will develop cancer because they've been scanned for it.

Patients may still decide that cancer screening is appropriate, Brawley said. "We support those who understand the benefits and risks and want to get screened," he said.

"[However], stopping smoking still provides a lot more bang for the buck," he said. "Don't look to lung cancer screening as a great Shangri-La."

Preliminary research presented Tuesday at the American Thoracic Society meeting in Philadelphia found that in a smaller group of smokers and former smokers, 6 percent who underwent low-dose CT scans had lung cancer detected.

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