Introduction: Lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) is now widely recommended for adults who are current or former heavy smokers. It is important to evaluate the impact of screening on patient-centered outcomes. Among current and former smokers eligible for lung cancer screening, we sought to determine the consequences of screening with LDCT, and subsequent results, on patient-centered outcomes such as quality of life, distress, and anxiety.
Methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (through the fourth Quarter 2012), MEDLINE (2000 to May 31, 2013), reference lists of articles, and Scopus for relevant English-language studies and systematic reviews. To evaluate the effect of LDCT screening on patient-centered outcomes, we included only randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving asymptomatic adults. To evaluate the association of particular results and/or recommendations from a screening LDCT with patient-centered outcomes, we included results from RCTs as well as from cohort studies.
Results: A total of 8215 abstracts were reviewed. Five publications from two European RCTs and one publication from a cohort study conducted in the United States met inclusion criteria. The process of LDCT lung cancer screening was associated with short-term psychologic discomfort in many people but did not affect distress, worry, or health-related quality of life. False-positive results were associated with short-term increases in distress that returned to levels that were similar to those among people with negative results. Negative results were associated with short-term decreases in distress.
Conclusions: As lung cancer screening is implemented in the general population, it will be important to evaluate its association with patient-centered outcomes. People considering lung cancer screening should be aware of the possibility of distress caused by false-positive results. Clinicians may want to consider tailoring communication strategies that can decrease the distress associated with these results.