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Lung screening may ‘significantly’ reduce cancer deaths

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The introduction of lung cancer screening in the UK could significantly reduce deaths in high risk groups, according to researchers.

It would not cause unnecessary anxiety, even though fear and stigma can sometimes be barriers to participation in screening, they added.

“It is important that we do more to introduce early detection strategies”

Kate Brain

Their trial, published in the journal Thorax, looked at long-term psychosocial outcomes of CT screening for lung cancer, which kills almost 40,000 people per year in the UK.

Around three quarters of patients are diagnosed at a late stage, but with early detection about seven out of 10 patients survive for a year or more.

The UK Lung cancer screening trial (UKLS) recruited over 4,000 men and women, aged 50-75, at high risk of lung cancer.

Participants were randomised to receive a CT screen or no screening, and were assessed after two weeks and again two years later.

The research showed that lung cancer screening did not cause undue worry when people were followed up over the two-year period, said the researchers.

They noted that participants who needed to have a repeat scan reported slightly higher cancer distress, but this was temporary.

Regardless of group allocation, cancer distress was found to be higher in women, participants under 65, current smokers and those with lung cancer experience.

The trial was undertaken in Liverpool and Papworth, while in-depth analysis of the psychosocial data was carried out in Cardiff.

Study author Dr Kate Brain, from Cardiff University, said: “With the UK’s five-year survival rate for lung cancer being lower than many other countries with comparable healthcare systems, it is important that we do more to introduce early detection strategies that help to ensure treatment is delivered before patients present at an advanced stage of the disease.

“Sometimes, fear of medical procedures and the results they might bring can prevent people from seeking life-saving tests,” she said. “However, what our trial shows is that CT lung cancer screening actually has no long-term negative psychosocial impact on patients, making it an excellent tool for catching lung cancer earlier when there is a better chance of survival.”

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