Big news today on the lung cancer front -- a way to detect the disease earlier and possibly save lives. But in finding cancer, are doctors also finding too many benign lesions? Some perspective on a groundbreaking study.
53,000 people were enrolled. Smokers and those at risk for lung cancer. Some got into a machine where doctors were able to take images of the lungs -- spiral slices on a CT scan. And they were able to find small lung tumors.
Rush University Medical Center: "For CT scans, the resolution, so kind of like your high definition tv, the resolution has doubled every two years for the last 10 years."
Where X-rays once detected disease later, CT now steps in. Lung cancer is not the most common cancer. It affects about 200,000 people per year. But it is the top cancer killer because people are diagnosed at a later stage when the disease treatment is less successful.
Dr. James Mulshine: "The average person getting lung cancer dies within a year of diagnosis."
Spiral CT may change that. Doctors are so sure, the National Cancer Institute stopped the spiral CT study after finding it finds cancer better. Take a look.
Dr. James Mulshine: "Here's what we used to see and this looks like a normal CT scan. Same person done at higher resolution and you start to see a lesion there. With higher resolution you see it much more prominently. With this technology, in a relatively short period of a decade, we can now see things that were invisible previously."
And they hope the better vision will urge lawmakers to see CT -- maybe just like a mammogram for detecting breast cancer early and saving lives.
Dr. James Mulshine: "It's likely, based on today's results, this will become a covered service."
The latest study shows the spiral CT scan can reduce death rates for lung cancer by 20%. But there are other studies in the works that may show a decrease of up to 60%. And that may be when people flock for scans and lawmakers move to get the scans covered by insurance.