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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Annual Lung Cancer Screening May Cut Deaths

CT Screening Catches Lung Cancer at Early, Treatable Stages

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Henschke reported the findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Michael Brant-Zawadski, MD, medical director of radiology at Hoag Memorial Hospital in New Port Beach, Calif., tells WebMD that as a former smoker, he was surprised that it took so long for the lung cancer risk to decrease. "But I think that the value of CT for lung cancer screening is fairly clear. Women are having regular mammograms, but it may be that a large population will need annual 'lungograms.'" Brant-Zawadski was not involved in the study.

Thus far the study has conducted lung CT images of 27,701 men and women and 19,371 repeat screenings.

Asked if it is time to recommend widespread lung cancer screening with CT, Henschke says, "I think it is useful for each person to make an individual decision based on his or her own circumstances." She says that CT screening exams cost about $300 "but that cost can be significantly less -- $150 or so -- or much higher, based on location." She says some insurers, for example Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield in New York, are offering to pay for CT screening for some patients.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force neither endorses nor opposes lung cancer screening with CT, traditional X-rays, or sputum tests, saying that there is insufficient evidence to support or oppose screening.

Henschke says one concern raised about lung cancer screening with CT is that it exposes people to radiation, but she notes that the screening CT protocol used in her study "uses about the same amount of radiation as a routine chest X-ray. I don't hear anyone objecting to annual chest X-rays."

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