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Early screening for lung cancer can give sufferers another 20 years of life

This type of screening is a painless, non-invasive and speedy x-ray.


Close up of female doctor pointing at abstract glowing lung interface with virus outline on blurry background. Medicine, pandemic and healthcare concept. Double exposure
(Golden Dayz via Shutterstock)

By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Early screening for lung cancer can give sufferers of the world's biggest killer cancer another 20 years of life, a new study shows.

The research shows that 80 percent of people diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer survived more than 20 years.

This is a stark contrast to those suffering from stage four lung cancer, when the disease has spread, where only around five percent of people survive for five years or more after they are diagnosed.

According to the American Lung Association, overall, the average lung cancer five-year survival rate is 18.6 percent.

More than half of people with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. It kills more people globally than any other cancer.

By surgically removing the cancer when it is small enough, patients can be effectively cured in the long term. Yet, when given time to grow and spread it is much harder to treat.

However, only 16 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, as symptoms usually occur in the later stages.

Symptoms of lung cancer can be a bad and persistent cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, fatigue and weight loss.

According to Cancer Research, one in 13 men and one in 15 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime, with over 43,000 people being diagnosed each year in the UK.

It is one of the four most common types of cancer in the UK, along with breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer.

In general, lung cancer affects older people. According to the NHS, in the UK four out of ten people diagnosed with lung cancer are around 75 or over.

While treatments of more advanced-stage cancers with targeted therapy and immunotherapy have come a long way, the best tool for fighting against lung cancer is early diagnosis through low-dose CT screening before symptoms appear.

This type of screening is a painless, non-invasive and speedy x-ray.

“Symptoms occur mainly in late-stage lung cancer, thus, the best way to find early-stage lung cancer is by enrolling in an annual screening program," said Dr. Claudia Henschke, a professor of radiology and director of the Early Lung and Cardiac Action Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and lead author of the study.

“While screening doesn’t prevent cancers from occurring, it is an important tool in identifying lung cancers in their early stage when they can be surgically removed.”

The study examined the survival rate of over 87,000 people suffering from lung cancer during a 20-year time period.

“What we present here is the 20-year follow-up on participants in our screening program that were diagnosed with lung cancer and subsequently treated," Henschke said.

“The key finding is that even after this long a time interval they are not dying of their lung cancer.”

The researchers previously found that 80 percent of patients whose cancer was identified by CT screening survived over ten years after their diagnosis.

Now, this new study shows that the 20-year survival rate is still at 80 percent for the 1,285 people who were diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer.

The survival rate of those who had nonsolid cancerous lung nodules and who had part-solid lung nodules was 100 per cent. For those with solid cancer nodules the survival rate was 73 percent.

Stage I lung cancer is a very small tumor that has not spread to any lymph nodes. It is split into two groups, stage IA and stage IB. Stage IA means the cancer is three centimeters or smaller, while IB means the cancer is between three and four centimeters.

Lung cancer survival for clinical Stage IA, which is the diagnosis before any surgery has taken place, was 86 per cent, regardless of consistency.

For participants with pathologic Stage IA cancers, which is the diagnosis before and after surgery, the 20-year survival rate was 92 per cent.

The results show that after 20 years, patients diagnosed with lung cancer at an early stage via CT screening have significantly better outcomes.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual lung cancer screening with low-dose CT in adults aged 50 to 80 years who have a 20 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.

Henschke said: “Ultimately, anyone interested in being screened needs to know that if they are unfortunate enough to develop lung cancer, that it can be cured if found early.”

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