The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) demonstrated that screening with low-dose CT versus chest radiography reduced lung cancer mortality by 16% to 20%. More recently, a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) of CT screening for lung cancer versus no screening in the NLST was performed. The CEA conformed to the reference-case recommendations of the US Panel on Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine, including the use of the societal perspective and an annual discount rate of 3%. The CEA was based on several important assumptions. In this paper, I review the methods and assumptions used to obtain the base case estimate of $81,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained. In addition, I show how this estimate varied widely among different subsets and when some of the base case assumptions were changed and speculate on the cost-effectiveness of CT screening for lung cancer outside the NLST.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00047385.