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Should lung cancer screenings be included in national cancer program?
  • By Marian Chu
  • Published 2018.03.14 18:05
  • Updated 2018.03.14 18:05
  • comments 0

Amid the ongoing discussions on whether to include lung cancer screenings into the “national cancer project,” new survey results are showing that an overwhelming majority of lung cancer specialists believe it should.

The national cancer project, which provides free examinations for several cancers, including that of the stomach and breast, does not cover lung cancer screenings. The government in May launched a pilot project in which doctors performed low-dose CT scans on smokers, to determine whether to include lung cancer screenings into the national program.

Survey results on 183 experts showed most of them viewed the low-dose CT screenings favorably, saying that it improves the likelihood of early detection while lowering the mortality rate.

A majority of surveyed lung cancer experts viewed low-dose CT scans favorably.

The survey was conducted by Inha University hospital’s Professor Ryu Jeong-seon, Samsung Medical Center’s Shin Dong-wook, and the Korean Association for Lung Cancer’s public relation committee on experts from the departments of lung cancer, respiratory medicine, thoracic surgery, and radiation oncology.

“Most lung cancer specialists believe the benefits of lung cancer screening are far greater than its side effects,” Professor Ryu said. “The introduction of early screenings will help prevent deaths from lung cancer, which is a leading cause of death.”

The pilot project was based on a U.S. clinical study that showed using a low-dose lung CT on about 54,000 people who had 30 pack years led to a 20 percent lower death from lung cancer and a 7 percent decrease in the overall mortality rate.

A majority of physicians agreed to introduce the scan into the national cancer screening project with nearly 90 percent noting that the mortality rate fell and 80 percent saying it improved health equity and was cost effective.

“This is the first study to investigate lung cancer specialists’ opinion on low-dose CT lung cancer screenings,” the researchers said. “We hope that it will be reflected in the decision-making process of future national policy and help people get rid of their fear of lung cancer.”

However, health officials noted that the government would have to consider several factors before implementing it. Some major causes of concern included people who could lie about smoking to get the screening done, a negative perception of the scan that deters people from getting it, and the high cost. Other reasons included people being either unaware, scared, or in denial of the risks of lung cancer.

"The biggest obstacle to performing lung cancer screening through low-dose lung CT is the cost burden,” Professor Shin said. "The introduction of the national lung cancer screening program will help lower the barriers, but we have to discuss where to get the funds.”

Almost 80 percent said that money should be raised through the health promotion fund, which includes cigarette tax, rather than the national health insurance.

The study was published in a recent issue of PLoS One.


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