Background Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Overall survival is less than 20%, with the majority of patients presenting with advanced disease. The National Lung Screening Trial, performed mainly in academic medical centers, showed that cancer mortality can be reduced with computed tomography (CT) screening compared with chest radiography in high-risk patients. To determine whether this survival advantage can be duplicated in a community-based multidisciplinary thoracic oncology program, we initiated a CT scan screening program for lung cancer within an established health care system. Methods In 2008, we launched a lung cancer CT screening program within the WellStar Health System (WHS) consisting of five hospitals, three health parks, 140 outpatient medical offices, and 12 imaging centers that provide care in a five-county area of approximately 1.4 million people in Metro-Atlanta. Screening criteria incorporated were the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (2008 to 2010) and National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines (2011 to 2013) for moderate- and high-risk patients. Results A total of 1,267 persons underwent CT lung cancer screening in WHS from 2008 through 2013; 53% were men, 87% were 50 years of age or older, and 83% were current or former smokers. Noncalcified indeterminate pulmonary nodules were found in 518 patients (41%). Thirty-six patients (2.8%) underwent a diagnostic procedure for positive findings on their CT scan; 30 proved to have cancer, 28 (2.2%) primary lung cancer and 2 metastatic cancer, and 6 had benign disease. Fourteen patients (50%) had their lung cancer discovered on their initial CT scan, 11 on subsequent scans associated with indeterminate pulmonary nodules growth and 3 patients who had a new indeterminate pulmonary nodules. Only 15 (54%) of these 28 patients would have qualified as a National Lung Screening Trial high-risk patient; 75% had stage I or II disease. Overall 5-year survival was 64% and 5-year cancer specific survival was 71% in the screened patients, whereas nonscreened lung cancer patients during that time in WHS had an overall survival of only 19% (p < 0.001). Conclusions A community-based multidisciplinary lung cancer screening program can improve survival of patients with lung cancer outside of a large multicenter study. This survival advantage was caused by a significant stage shift to earlier disease. Lung cancer CT screening may also benefit patients not meeting the National Lung Screening Trial criteria who are at moderate or high risk for lung cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine