Impact of low-dose CT on lung cancer screening

Lung Cancer. 2004 Aug;45 Suppl 2:S13-9. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2004.07.997.


Despite advances in therapy, the prognosis of lung cancer remains dismal due to the fact that most cases of lung cancer are diagnosed at advanced stages, when the chance of cure is poor. In cases detected at early stages prognosis is better. Unfortunately, early lung cancer usually causes no symptoms and is, consequently, rarely diagnosed. Therefore, screening for early asymptomatic lung cancer with diagnostic procedures appears promising particularly as risk factors for lung cancer are well known (cigarette smoking, occupational asbestos exposure and others) and screening could, therefore, focus on these risk groups. In the past, screening trials using analysis of sputum cytology and to some extent chest radiography have failed to demonstrate a reduction in lung-cancer mortality with screening, probably due to insufficient sensitivity of these tests for early lung cancer. During the last decade the introduction of spiral computed tomography (CT) has provided a technique with a much higher sensitivity for small lung cancers. Feasibility studies using low-radiation-dose CT demonstrated a high proportion of non-small-cell lung cancer at the initial examination (prevalence) with decreasing numbers of detected cancers at follow-up (incidence). The proportion of early-stage tumors was high both at prevalence and incidence examinations. The rate of invasive procedures for benign lesions was low; most indeterminate lesions could be classified with non-invasive diagnostic approaches. The proportion of interval cancers (cancers diagnosed by symptoms between two screening CT scans) was low. As, however, these one-arm feasibility trials are not appropriate to assess a potential mortality reduction through CT screening, prospective randomised multicenter trials were recently initiated in several countries to analyse the effect of CT screening on lung-cancer mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Mass Screening
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*