CT scans could save lung cancer patients

An American study offers hope to the 80 per cent of UK sufferers who are beyond help because the disease is diagnosed too late

Thousands of lives could be saved by screening for early signs of lung cancer, a groundbreaking new study has found. Deaths from the disease fell by 20 per cent among former or current smokers who were checked with CT scans, according to the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) study of more than 50,000 people.

With more than 1.3 million new cases worldwide every year, lung cancer is Britain's biggest cancer killer and 80 per cent of patients die within a year of being diagnosed. Smoking is the biggest risk factor, but around 4,000 new patients every year have never smoked a cigarette in their lives, according to Cancer Research UK; as many as half of new cases are former smokers. The number and rapidity of patient deaths is largely due to late diagnosis, as symptoms usually appear only after it is too late for surgery.

UK experts last night said they were "incredibly excited" about the US research, which for the first time shows how relatively harmless CT scans can save thousand of lives. They hope the results will provide much-needed impetus for the UK's own lung cancer screening study, which has languished after its announcement almost two years ago.

Dr Michael Peake, the national clinical lead for lung cancer at NHS Cancer Improvement, said: "This is the first time that lung cancer screening has shown a positive impact on survival rates. If this was breast cancer, the results would be all over the front pages, but the public still see lung cancer as self-inflicted. It isn't sexy and few survive, so there aren't many people banging their fists on TV, and it's hard to find a young attractive female lung cancer patient, I'm afraid, yet it kills more people than any other cancer. Targeted screening, together with increased awareness among the public and primary care professionals about the symptoms, and improved standards of hospital care could save 10,000 lives a year."

Currently, only 7 per cent of lung cancer patients in the UK are alive after five years (the vast majority, –80 per cent – are beyond curative surgery by the time they see a specialist). This compares with survival rates of 82 per cent for breast and 76 per cent for prostate cancer. While a small pea-sized lump in the breast can be detected through vigilant self-examination, a lung tumour must be 50 times as big before any symptoms such as a persistent cough appear.

To make matters worse, the chances of having an operation depend on your postcode, as more than two-fifths of hospitals have no specialist thoracic surgeon, said Dr Peake.

The NCI study compared annual CT scans with X-rays on current or former heavy smokers from across the US. Survival rates increased with CT scans, as malignant cells were detected earlier. Research shows that 70 per cent of lung cancer sufferers can survive for at least five years if surgeons operate before disease spreads within the lung or to other organs.

Researchers in the US are now analysing the data to see if CT scans would benefit high-risk non-smokers, such as those who inhale smoke passively over many years. Dr Christine Berg from the NCI said: "The study cost $250m, but given the huge worldwide burden of this disease, this was an extraordinarily important question to answer. The public health message is to never smoke, but for all those who make the mistake but then quit, they should know we are trying to do as much as possible to help them, too."

The long-awaited UK pilot study is likely to investigate whether one-off scans produce similar results, as this would be much cheaper for the NHS. Economic analysis shows that catching cancer early saves money on expensive drugs, hospital admissions, lost earnings and benefits.

Dr Jesme Fox, medical director of the Royal Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: "We've seen the massive difference screening has made to breast, bowel and cervical cancer, so I hope there will now be a big step forward for lung cancer screening."

Case study

Andrew Melville, 50, from Staffordshire, died from lung cancer in 2008 after smoking cigarettes for more than 30 years. He left behind a wife and teenage daughter. His brother-in-law, Barry Atwood, 65, now campaigns for the Roy Castle Foundation

"By the time Andrew was diagnosed, the tumour was very big and so near major organs and blood vessels that it was impossible to operate. He'd smoked most of his life. But if he'd had a CT scan, then I'm sure they'd have caught it early and he'd be here with us today. Early diagnosis would save thousands of lives, so it is of the utmost importance that we get on with screening in the UK."

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
film
Sport
football
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

    £47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker