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Low Dose CT Scans Find Lung Cancer

A new study, called The Pittsburgh Lung Screening Study (PLuSS), the researchers evaluated low-dose CT scans of the chest of smokers.  All people in the study received low radiation dose CT scans of the chest.  They received CT scans again one year later.  A noncalcified lung nodule was identified in 40.6% of patients on the initial scan.  During 3 years of follow-up, 80 subjects were found to have lung cancer, including 53 who had a tumor detected on the initial scan.

One (1%) percent of patients who had an abnormality detected on the initial or repeat CT scan ended up having a major thoracic operation that resulted in a diagnosis that the nodule was not cancer.  Of 82 subjects who underwent thoracotomy or video-assisted thorascopic surgery to rule out malignancy, 28 ultimately received a noncancer diagnosis.  Among 69 patients who had non-small cell lung cancer, 40 had stage 1 disease at diagnosis

Some believe that these findings mean low dose CT scans will cause unnecessary biopsy.  Those people will say that it is acceptable for doctors to engage in "watchful waiting" of pulmonary nodules and that it is not necessary to biopsy the nodule.   The idea is that most of the nodules will not be lung cancer.  However, if you are the person whose nodule is cancer, that is not an acceptable approach.  That approach will cause unnecessary suffering or death in many people.  Guidelines should not always be based on statistics alone.  The fact is that low dose CT scans of the chest can identify lung cancer at an early stage and treatment at that stage can cure the person.

For more information about lung cancer, see the lung cancer attorneys of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.