X-ray not good for lung cancer screening
An advanced lung tumor detected by chest X-ray.
Routine chest X-rays has not been a successful screening test for early diagnosis of lung cancer in smokers and former smokers which may lead to lower death rates.
A study of more than 150,000 older US American people aged 55 to 74 showed that the death rate of those who undertook four annual screening chest X-rays were almost equal with those who didn't have those routine exams.
The new large research funded by the National Cancer Institute supported the results of previous smaller studies suggesting that X-ray is not a suitable screening test for lung cancer.
During the 13 years follow up, “there were 1,696 lung cancers detected in the intervention group and 1,620 lung cancers in the usual care group," according to the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
However, “1,213 lung cancer deaths were observed in the intervention group versus 1,230 in the usual care group.”
Lung cancer which is more common in older adults is the deadliest type of cancer for both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer while second hand smokers and none smokers are also at risk.
Chest X-ray screening for lung cancer was common decades ago while still some physicians continue to recommend it for smokers and former smokers but, the new study backed by the US government has showed the practice to be useless.
“There really was no benefit of the screening,” said study co-author Dr. Christine Berg. “We detected some of the cancers a little earlier than we would have, but not early enough or in large enough numbers to really have an impact on lung cancer mortality.”
CT scans, which provide much more detailed images than X-rays has showed to be more successful in early detection of lung cancer and preventing deaths among current or former heavy smokers.
However, none of the major medical group has recommend the more expensive technique as a routine lung cancer screening test and are studying to suggest new guidelines to replace regular chest X-rays.
“"Lung cancer screening with low-dose helical CT is the only technology that has ever been shown to lower lung cancer mortality,” Berg said.
But the downsides of CT scans are that they're more expensive, and they have many more false positives because they're much sensitive, she added.