CT Scan Does Not Increase Lung Cancer Survival

By: Lindsey Ward Email
By: Lindsey Ward Email

March 7, 2007

Doctors have used computed tomography scans or better know as CT scans to screen smokers or former smokers for early traces of lung cancer, but a new study released this week suggests it doesn’t save lives. In fact, it can be harmful.

"It’s a big round machine and it's comfortable and it talks to you and its warm too. It keeps you warm because I’m cold natured," lung cancer survivor Mary Bond said, describing the first time she received radiology.

Last year, Mary went to the doctor when she had trouble breathing doing her daily activities.

“I knew something was wrong because i was getting short of breath,” said Bond.

After testing, Mary's doctor diagnosed her with lung cancer.

One of the most common tests doctor's use to find the cancer is a CT scan. It's a special form of x-ray to give a closer look inside a patient's chest.

“As opposed to an x-ray, which is just a plain view, a CT scan can slice your lung into multiple slices, so you can examine the lung carefully, going through from the top to the bottom,” said Jonathon Truwit,M.D, UVa Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs.

A new study appearing in The Journal of the American Medical Association said the scans did lead to an increase in diagnosis and treatment, but that early detection did not increase survival.

“Yes you will still pick up cancers, three times more likely to pick up cancers. Also, that results in ten times more like to result in surgery,” said Truwit.

Meaning, doctors rushing patients to surgery put them at risk for complications like infections and internal bleeding. Of the three thousand patients in the study, the report says not one extra life was saved.

But Mary is one survivor looking to the future.

“When you get 77 its time to sit down and take it easy and take it slow,” she said.

This study contradicts one that was released last year by Cornell University. So, there is some debate over which one is accurate.

Just last year, over 160,000 people died from lung cancer.

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