New CT Scan for Lung Cancer Screening Debuts at Norris Cotton Cancer Center

Cancer Center research was key to development of the new screening test.

In this video, William Black, MD, professor of radiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, and Julianna Czum, MD, director of chest imaging at Norris Cotton Cancer Center, explain the benefits of CT scanning for lung cancer.

Thanks to research conducted at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, smokers can now take an active role in making decisions about their long-term health.

The test, which is a low-dose CT scan allows physicians to identify cancerous growths before they are visible on a traditional x-ray. Research shows that having a lung cancer screening test may reduce deaths from lung cancer in middle aged current and former heavy smokers by 20 percent.

At present, the majority of lung cancers are caught late, resulting in just a 15 percent survival rate at five years. Previous studies have shown that using a standard chest X-ray doesn't catch the presence of lung cancer early enough to alter the mortality rate, but the new CT scan research is a game-changer, says Dr. Black.

Patients eligible for a CT screening for lung cancer are men and women aged 55 to 74 years with at least 30 "pack years" of smoking history. (Pack years = packs per day x number of years smoking; e.g., a smoker who has smoked two packs a day for 10 years has 20 pack years.) By definition, screening only pertains to patients who do not have signs or symptoms of lung cancer.

Fewer deaths from lung cancer

The research study, called the National Lung Screening Trial, was published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine. William Black, MD, professor of radiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth who heads the Geisel School’s participation in the NLST, notes that not only did the research show a significant reduction in lung cancer deaths due to screening via CT scans, but overall mortality dropped seven percent as well.

The research involved data collected from more than 50,000 subjects at 33 sites. It is the first solid evidence that screening high-risk patients using CT scans could reduce lung cancer deaths -- a finding that has several of the nation's major medical centers setting up CT lung screening programs of their own.

Lung cancer screening tests are available at Norris Cotton Cancer Center. To determine eligibility and to make an appointment for a screening, contact the Lung/Esophageal/Thoracic Cancer Program. Contact phone numbers are listed in the "Contact Us" box on the right side of the web page.

June 27, 2012