Lung cancer (http://cancer.gov/nlst/about-lung-cancer), most frequently caused by cigarette smoking, is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States -- claiming nearly 160,000 lives each year. The most effective way to avoid lung cancer death is not to start smoking, and if you already smoke, to quit immediately and permanently.
As a medical association representing nearly 34,000 health care providers dedicated to saving and extending lives, the American College of Radiology (ACR) fully supports the use of techniques shown to significantly reduce the number of people who die each year from lung cancer. The National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST) was stopped early so that the tremendous positive results could be made known. This speaks volumes to the ability of helical computed tomography (CT) screening of high-risk patients to save lives.
The significant number of lives saved should be the primary factor in decisions regarding the widespread use of CT screening for lung cancer. In that regard, important areas of discussion for determining the direction of any national policy include the following:
As the expert organization in this area of care, the ACR is very encouraged by the NLST results. The College looks forward to working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Cancer Institute, patient advocacy groups, Congress and other stakeholders in addressing challenges to a potential lung cancer screening program.
Until and unless a national lung cancer screening program can be put in place, we encourage all physicians to obtain as much information regarding the NLST as possible. We also encourage patients to speak with their doctors regarding the usefulness of CT scanning to screen for lung cancer in their particular cases.