Perhaps politically, smokers aren't the most popular group, and a nicotine-blocking drug like Chantix has been a wonderful addition to my clinical arsenal. Better to be a non-smoker, whereupon the risks drop dramatically. I've written previously - 1-06 - for the Wash Post about how quitting can best be accomplished by a change in lifestyle, and how quitting decreases both short term and long term health risks.
But for those who haven't quit, and even for those who have, screening at some regular interval has important health benefits.
Here's an interesting study just published - the mention is in Cancer Research UK:
Lung cancer screening effective for high-risk groups, says US group
FRIDAY 30 MARCH 2007
Screening high-risk individuals for lung cancer with an annual 'CT' scan may be able to detect tumours when they are most treatable, according to new US research.
The New York Early Lung Cancer Action Project study, published in the April edition of Radiology, examined the screening results of 6,295 former smokers aged over 60.
A total 124 of these people were diagnosed with lung cancer.
Almost nine in every ten of those diagnosed were found to have tumours that that had not yet spread.
Lung cancer screening is an area of intense interest, as currently most lung cancers are not detected until they are at an advanced stage when the disease is extremely difficult to treat successfully.
The new findings run counter to research published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which suggested that CT screening may not significantly reduce death rates, despite detecting more cancers.
Some scientists think that CT screening may also be detecting slow-growing tumours that would not cause harm, leading people to be treated unnecessarily.
"The JAMA article was the first application of a newly developed computer model which predicted expected deaths from lung cancer, and there are numerous concerns about its validity," said Dr Henschke.
The US National Cancer Institute is funding a large trial, NLST, involving over 50,000 people, with results expected in 2009. This trial should answer questions over the effectiveness of CT screening and chest x-rays in reducing lung cancer deaths.