Lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography in at-risk individuals: the Toronto experience

Lung Cancer. 2010 Feb;67(2):177-83. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2009.03.030. Epub 2009 May 7.


Objective: The Department of Medical Imaging at the University Health Network in Toronto is performing a lung cancer screening study, utilizing low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) as the modality. Baseline and annual repeat results are reported on the first 3352 participants, enrolled between June 2003 and May 2007.

Methods: Enrollment was limited to those aged 50 years or older, with a smoking history of at least 10 pack-years, no previous cancer and general good health. A helical low-dose CT (LDCT) of the chest was performed using 120kVp, 40-60mA, images were reconstructed with 1-1.25mm overlapping slices. The primary objectives were the detection of parenchymal nodules and diagnosis of early stage lung cancer. Baseline LDCTs were termed positive if at least one indeterminate non-calcified nodule 5mm or larger in size, or non-solid nodule 8mm or larger in size was identified. Follow up periods for individuals with a positive baseline LDCT were determined by nodule characteristics.

Results: The median age at baseline was 60 years (range 50-83), with a median of 30 pack-years of cigarette smoking (range 10-189). Baseline CT evaluations were positive in 600 (18%) participants. To date, 2686 (80%) of the participants have returned for at least one annual repeat screening LDCT. Biopsies have been recommended for 82 participants since the study began, and 64 have been diagnosed with screen-detected cancer (62 lung, two plasmacytoma of the rib). A total of 65 lung cancers have been diagnosed (62 screen-detected, 3 interim), 57 are NSCLC (82% with known stage are stage I or II) and the rate of surgical resection was 80%. Sensitivity and specificity of the protocol in successfully diagnosing early stage lung cancers were 87.7% and 99.3%, respectively.

Conclusions: Data indicate that LDCT can identify small lung cancers in an at-risk population. The diagnostic algorithm results in few false-positive invasive procedures. Most cancers are detected at an early stage, where the cancer is resectable with a greater potential for cure. Long-term follow up of lung cancer cases will be carried out to determine survival.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Algorithms
  • Biopsy
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*