Using computed tomography to annually screen for lung cancer can help radiologists detect malignancies at their earliest, most curable stage, but evidence is lacking that CT screening actually reduces deaths from the disease, according to a study published in the April issue of Radiology.
Although CT screening may find more early-stage cancers, a number of them are likely nonlethal or slow-growing cancers that the patient would die with rather than die from, said the study's lead author, Stephen Swensen, M.D., chair of radiology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
The study, funded in part by the National Cancer Institute, followed up on 1,520 current and former smokers who received annual screenings between January 1999 and May 2004. The researchers found no significant difference when comparing mortality rates in this study to those of a lung cancer screening trial conducted at the Mayo Clinic in the 1970s using X-ray. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S.