Early Detection of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer kills more people worldwide than any other cancer. However, according to a report published in The Journal of Best Clinical Practices for Today's Physician, no available lung cancer screening protocol has proven sufficiently robust, safe, and cost effective to warrant a recommendation for population-based screening. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force stated that although it found "fair evidence that screening with low-dose computerized tomography, chest x-ray, or sputum cytology can detect lung cancer at an earlier stage" than it would be detected without screening, the group also found "poor evidence that any screening strategy for lung cancer decreases mortality."
Furthermore, the risks inherent in the high number of false-positive test results that may occur from the use of these screening tools are cause for concern. These risks include the need for invasive diagnostic procedures to characterize suspicious nodules as benign or malignant and the potential anxiety caused by a false-positive result. Thus, although low-dose spiral CT offers a proven method for detecting small (less than 1 cm) lung tumors that are at an early, highly resectable stage, the challenge lies in developing diagnostic algorithms that minimize the number of false-positive results and limit the number of patients who undergo biopsy without missing treatable cancers.