Lung cancer screening via low-dose CT dramatically improves long-term survival rates, according to a first-of-its-kind study published Tuesday in Radiology .
Individuals diagnosed with the disease have a 20-year survival rate of roughly 81%. And when physicians find lung cancer at its earliest stage, survival rates climb to 95%, researchers reported.
The results come from the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program, or I-ELCAP, a study launched decades ago to measure the effectiveness of LDCT. More than 89,000 participants across over 80 institutions have enrolled in the international study, which is working to roll out screening programs in underserved countries.
“It is the first time that 20-year survival rates from annual screening have been reported,” lead author, Claudia Henschke, PhD., MD, a professor of radiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said in a Nov. 7 announcement from RSNA. “This 20-year survival rate of 81% is the estimated cure rate of all participants with lung cancers diagnosed by annual screening. This is a huge benefit compared to waiting for a diagnosis that, in usual care, is symptom-prompted.”
The analysis tracked participants enrolled in I-ELCAP between 1992 and 2022 and observed through December of last year. Eligible participants were at least age 40, were former or current smokers, or had been exposed to secondhand smoke. Henschke et al. used Kaplan-Meier survival analysis to determine both 10- and 20-year, lung cancer-specific survival rates of those with first primary lung cancer.
Out of 89,404 I-ELCAP participants, 1,257 (1.4%) were diagnosed with the disease. This included about 81% with stage 1 cancer that had not spread to the lymph nodes. These individuals had a long-term survival rate of about 87%. Despite such success, only about 16% of lung cancers are diagnosed at an early stage and more than half of those with the disease die within one year of their prognosis, according to the American Lung Association.
After 20 years, patients diagnosed with lung cancer at an early stage have significantly better outcomes, the study noted.
“Lung cancer can be cured if you enroll in an annual screening program using a well-defined protocol and comprehensive management system,” Henschke said in the announcement. “It is important to return for annual screening.”
Read more from the study at the links below, including a corresponding editorial .
- Claudia Henschke et al. “A 20-year Follow-up of the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP).” Radiology. Nov. 7, 2023.
- Philippe A. Grenier. “Cure Rate of Lung Cancer Diagnosed at Annual CT Screening.” Radiology. Nov. 7, 2023.