Lung cancer screening yields early diagnoses and increased cure rates in veterans

Among US veterans diagnosed with lung cancer through the Veterans Health Administration healthcare system, those who underwent screening before diagnosis were more likely to be diagnosed with earlier stage disease and had a higher cure rate than those who had not been screened. The findings come from an observational study published by Wiley online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and most patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Early detection through screening could save lives, and current recommendations state that adults 50–80 years old with at least a 20-pack-year smoking history who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years should undergo annual imaging tests for lung cancer.

Such screening has been shown to be beneficial in clinical trials, but there are limited data on the real-world effectiveness of lung cancer screening. To investigate, researchers assessed the impact of screening among patients in the Veterans Health Administration healthcare system diagnosed with lung cancer from 2011–2018.

Among 57,919 individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, 2,167 (3.9%) underwent screening before diagnosis. Patients who underwent screening had higher rates of early (stage I) diagnoses compared with those who had no screening (52% versus 27%), lower rates of death from any cause (49.8% versus 72.1%), and death from cancer (41.0% versus 70.3%) over 5 years.

It is incredible to witness how dedicated national efforts to increase lung cancer screening from the Lung Precision Oncology Program can lead to substantial improvements in lung cancer outcomes."

Michael Green, MD, PhD, co-corresponding author of the University of Michigan and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System

Source:
Journal reference:

Edwards, D. M., et al. (2024) Impact of lung cancer screening on stage migration and mortality among the national Veterans Health Administration population with lung cancer. Cancer. doi.org/10.1002/cncr.35340.

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