The National Health Service in the UK does not currently perform lung cancer screening but it is available in the private sector. Evidence for its benefits have been growing for some time and, in May 2012, four major learned societies reviewed three of the largest and most highly regarded recent trials, concluding that early lung cancer detection through CT screening did help boost survival rates.
The four societies involved, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) looked several studies, but the largest was the National Lung Screening Trial.
This followed a huge number of patients – over 53,000 – which means that its findings are likely to be accurate. The researchers found that screening annually using CT scans reduced the risk that people with lung cancer would die of their disease earlier.
In the USA, heavy smokers aged between 55 and 74 are now screened for signs of lung cancer using low dose CT scans every year. If anything suspicious is detected, they are then followed up quickly and treated.
The recommendations made by the US-based experts stress, however, that screening should always be carried out by doctors who have good experience in detecting early stage lung cancers.