Learn the risks of CT scans in the fight against lung cancer

John Fisher
Connect with me
Stopping Medical Injustice
A new study revealed that CT scans, or computerized tomography, can prevent lung cancer deaths when used to screen for the cancer in persons at high risk for lung cancer, i.e., persons with a 30 year+ history of smoking a pack a day of cigarettes.  A CT scan is a specialized X-ray that takes about a hundred pictures that show a cross-section of the lungs.  CT scans are much more sensitive than an X-ray and they can show lung nodules that are 1 to 2 millimeters wide (a millimeter is almost microscopic).

The study revealed an amazing statistic: the screening for lung cancer prevented an estimated 380,000 deaths from lung cancer over the eight year study.  Since lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in America and about 80 percent are not diagnosed until their cancer is advanced and incurable, screening for lung cancer is a win-win for patients with a high risk of this cancer...right?

Some medical societies oppose CT scans as a screening measure for persons at high risk for lung cancer.  Here's the gist of their argument: CT scans can deliver high doses of radiation and the exposure to radiation can cause cancer by transforming healthy cells into cancerous cells.  Some studies support this view.  The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 1 out of 100 people "will likely develop cancer" from an exposure of 100 millisieverts of radiation over a lifetime and half of such persons will die from the cancer. 

The question for lifelong smokers is whether the risk of developing cancer from annual CT scans is outweighed by the benefit of screening for lung cancer with annual screenings.  In this author's opinion, the answer is an emphatic "YES!" One statistic cannot be ignored: 380,000 lives were saved by annual CT screening for persons at high risk for lung cancer.

For opponents of CT screening for lung cancer the question is: will the radiation from annual CT scans cost the lives of more than 380,000 persons?  Not nearly.  If half of the USA's 36 million current and former smokers ages 50 to 74 were to get annual CT screenings until age 75, radiation-related cancers could kill up to 94,000 people, according to David Brenner, a professor at Columbia University. The empirical evidence clearly shows that the risk to patients from radiation exposure from annual CT scans is far outweighed by the deaths from lung cancer that can be prevented with annual screening. 380,000 lung cancer deaths will be prevented!

How nice it would be for the medical societies to make new guidelines and recommendations that adopt the screening for lung cancer with CT scans for persons at high risk.  This new study may be quickly forgotten, but lives will be lost if physicians and hospitals ignore it.

Many people are not as sympathetic for lung cancer victims since 87% of the cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking.  We need to put aside our prejudices against smokers and make sure they get the screening that could very well save their lives.

What do you think?  I want to hear from you.






Be the first to comment!
Post a Comment