Low-dose computed tomography lung cancer screening: Clinical evidence and implementation research

J Intern Med. 2022 Jul;292(1):68-80. doi: 10.1111/joim.13480. Epub 2022 Mar 24.


Lung cancer causes more deaths than breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer combined. Nevertheless, population-based lung cancer screening is still not considered standard practice in most countries worldwide. Early lung cancer detection leads to better survival outcomes: patients diagnosed with stage 1A lung cancer have a >75% 5-year survival rate, compared to <5% at stage 4. Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) thorax imaging for the secondary prevention of lung cancer has been studied at length, and has been shown to significantly reduce lung cancer mortality in high-risk populations. The US National Lung Screening Trial reported a 20% overall reduction in lung cancer mortality when comparing LDCT to chest X-ray, and the Nederlands-Leuvens Longkanker Screenings Onderzoek (NELSON) trial more recently reported a 24% reduction when comparing LDCT to no screening. Hence, the focus has now shifted to implementation research. Consequently, the 4-IN-THE-LUNG-RUN consortium based in five European countries, has set up a large-scale multicenter implementation trial. Successful implementation of and accessibility to LDCT lung cancer screening are dependent on many factors, not limited to population selection, recruitment strategy, computed tomography screening frequency, lung-nodule management, participant compliance, and cost effectiveness. This review provides an overview of current evidence for LDCT lung cancer screening, and draws attention to major factors that need to be addressed to successfully implement standardized, effective, and accessible screening throughout Europe. Evidence shows that through the appropriate use of risk-prediction models and a more personalized approach to screening, efficacy could be improved. Furthermore, extending the screening interval for low-risk individuals to reduce costs and associated harms is a possibility, and through the use of volumetric-based measurement and follow-up, false positive results can be greatly reduced. Finally, smoking cessation programs could be a valuable addition to screening programs and artificial intelligence could offer a solution to the added workload pressures radiologists are facing.

Keywords: LDCT; early detection; lung cancer; pulmonary nodules; screening.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Early Detection of Cancer* / methods
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods