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GP Update Lung Cancer

Screening set to "change the profile of lung cancer"

Findings from a recent European study have demonstrated the positive impact of screening on stage of lung cancer diagnosis and deaths from the disease.

11 December 2018


The NELSON study was a population-based, controlled trial that enrolled over 15,000 people from the Netherlands and Belgium who were at high risk for lung cancer. The trial showed that the use of low dose radiation computed tomography (CT) among asymptomatic, high-risk men led to a 26 per cent reduction in lung cancer deaths at 10 years of study follow-up. Results also showed that 69 per cent of the screening-detected lung cancers were detected at Stage 1A or 1B.

The findings were presented at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s (IASLC) 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer in Toronto, Canada, on 25 September 2018.

Study participants were randomised 1:1 to either the study arm or control arm. Study arm participants were offered CT screenings at baseline, one, three and five and a half years after randomisation. No screenings were offered to control arm participants.

In the group that had CT screening, 157 people died of lung cancer; compared with 214 lung cancer deaths in the group that didn’t have screening.

This is the second largest trial of its kind in the world, and showed even more favourable outcomes than the first major trial in the US.

At The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust GP Education Series on 27 September 2018, Dr Mary O’Brien, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, said that “the trial findings are a landmark moment for lung cancer in this country, and will change the profile of lung cancer”.

this means that there is now conclusive evidence in Europe for lung cancer screening, and that there will now be a push to fully implement screening in the UK.

Dr Jonathan Ratoff, Consultant Respiratory Physician