Follow Japan's lead in screening for lung cancer, expert urges

March 6, 2013 | by Tami Dennis

Lung cancer screening saves lives — and it can be done in a cost-effective way. Lung cancer specialists have been saying this for years, and the chorus is growing louder.

 

Screening for lung cancer, shown here, can save lives, as studies have shown. Accordingly, lung cancer specialists are calling for increased screening. Screening for lung cancer, shown here, can save lives, as studies have shown. Accordingly, lung cancer specialists are calling for increased screening.

 

On the heels of a Cancer study concluding that screening with low-dose computed tomography (CT) could save more than 12,000 lives each year — if offered to those eligible under certain broad guidelines — comes this provocative question from a City of Hope expert: What do cars, TVs and lung cancer have in common?

The question — the title of an article on Cancer Network, home of the journal Oncology — is posed by City of Hope's Frederic Grannis, M.D., a clinical professor in the Department of Surgery. It bears the subhead: “Musings of a Cynical Curmudgeon.”

“Most Americans are aware that technical experts from Consumer Reports magazine consistently rank televisions and automobiles manufactured by Japanese companies higher than their U.S. counterparts, but I believe that neither Consumer Reports nor U.S. physicians — including so-called lung cancer ‘thought leaders’ — understand how much better lung cancer treatment results are in Japan,” Grannis writes.

He then proceeds to call attention to the survival rates among lung cancer patients in Japan — and to take issue with the limited lung cancer screening conducted in the U.S. “Evidence suggests that the primary reason for strikingly improved survival lies in widespread application of lung cancer screening in Japan,” he writes in the article.

Grannis said this week that he wrote the article after a “systemic review” of evidence on lung cancer screening that gave short shrift to the evidence from Japan. The result, he said, was an insurance company and task force recommendation to restrict coverage for lung cancer screening to only a small subset of high-risk individuals.

“My goal in writing this blog was to acquaint the medical community of the enormous quantity of evidence that had been redacted in this process,” Grannis said. “We need wider application of CT screening for lung cancer in order to save lives. NCCN, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons have all come out with guidelines advising wider application of screening.”

As for the recent study concluding that 12,000 lives could be saved with additional screening, Grannis added: "In reality, this potentially achievable number of deaths prevented is probably closer to half of all current lung cancer deaths, i.e., 80,000."

Read more about lung cancer screening at City of Hope.

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