CT screening for lung cancer: coping with nihilistic recommendations

Radiology. 2001 Dec;221(3):592-6; discussion 597. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2213001644.


The practicing radiologist today is well persuaded that earlier diagnosis of lung cancer can be achieved with traditional-type radiography and especially with modern computed tomography. The practitioner also is confident that intervention in the context of earlier diagnosis is more effective in preventing death due to this otherwise fatal disease. The practitioner is thus inclined to consider such screening in a high-risk person with suitably long life expectancy, especially when asked to provide it. On the other hand, the practitioner is aware of official recommendations against lung cancer screening, said to be based on demonstrated lack of effectiveness of traditional radiographic screening. Some researchers have expressed concerns about screening-associated "overdiagnosis." Given this dilemma, the critically thinking practitioner is concerned to understand the foundation of the official nihilism in evidence and reasoning, as she or he suspects that something may be seriously wrong in this. This article is an attempt to help such a practitioner in this effort--an effort that in the end is rewarded by the comforting realization that the nihilistic recommendations and hesitation-provoking cautions are founded on pseudoevidence and specious reasoning.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*