Study: CT scans help lung cancer detection

November 4, 2010 6:55:54 PM PDT
A new study suggests advanced computer tomography or CT scans can be an effective tool in saving lives when it comes to lung cancer. The American Cancer Society says lung cancer is the number one cancer killer with about 160,000 deaths each year.

The U.S. National Cancer Institute just released the results from a $250 million lung screening trial that says CT scans can reduce the death rate for current and former heavy smokers by 20 percent.

Dr. Bill Loo, an assistant professor and thoracic radiation oncology program leader at Stanford University Medical Center, says CT scans are more effective at early detection of lung cancer and provide more opportunities for early treatment reducing the mortality rate.

"It illustrates the potential for making a big impact on lung cancer survival by finding them at a stage when they are much more curable than when we usually find them," he said.

Christina Mayo, who is vice president of operations for an independent imaging facility, Premiere Scan says she hopes the study goes a long way in encouraging the medical establishment and insurance companies to reimburse for the costs for lung CT scans. The cost of a regular two dimensional X-ray is about $95 and a three dimensional more detailed lung CT scan runs about $150-$350 depending on the complexity of the scan and report.

"It acts as a deterrent to patients when it really should be something that everybody considers as a means of saving money in the long run," she said.

Loo and other medical professionals say a lot more analysis of the study must be done before CT scans are routinely recommended for patients. He also emphasized the study focused on the benefits of the technology for heavy smokers.

"You want to make sure it's a population of patients who is at high risk enough so that finding the lung cancer outweighs the risk of ct scans," Loo said.


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