There might be better hope for cancer patients, as low-dose CT scans could help track lung cancer early and increase the chances of surviving for several years with the disease.
- Around 90% of lung cancer cases are linked to smoking
- Low-dose CT scans could help detect lung cancer early
- Catching lung cancer at stage 1 has a 50% of extending survival to up to 5 years
- Low-dose CT scans have higher radiation exposure than X-rays, so they’re preferred for high-risk patients
When most think about lung cancer, they naturally associate it with smoking. The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that this is true for 90% of the cases. For the rest 10%, they do not have to be smokers to develop lung cancer. It can be there without smoking a day in your life. This is why proper screening and catching it early drastically improves chances.
Treatments are in development, with numerous genetic approaches that might help our bodies fight off the deadly disease. In the meantime, however, early detection could still be our safest best. For example, catching cancers in stage 1 offers a 50% chance of surviving up to 5 years. However, those odds plummet to 5% if it’s caught too late, at stage 4.
The ACS states that there are certain benefits that could be drawn from getting low-dose CT scans for lung cancer. During a study, they found that patients who took low-dose CT scans of their chest instead of X-rays had 16% lower chances of dying from lung cancer. This could be due to the earlier detections, which aids in prompting modifications in their lifestyle and treatments.
Low-dose CT scans have smaller amounts of radiation than regular CT scans, and they are currently recommended for adults between 55 and 74 years old, who have smoked at least one pack of cigarettes per day. Or, if they quit within the last 15 years. According to radiologist, Dr. Juan Jimenez, this isn’t a method recommend for patients already showing symptoms, such as coughing or chest pain.
It’s only a technique to catch it on in its early stages, which would increase the patient’s lifespan. And, as stated by the radiologist, lung cancer is “the deadliest cancers that we have”. The low-dose CT scans could become a way to extend the patient’s life, by detecting the masses on the lungs earlier than any other method.
However, the ACS also underlines its risks. The low-dose CT scans may have lower amounts of radiation than the standard CT scans, but it’s still higher than X-rays. And, certainly, any level of radiation presents with higher risk than none. There are potential harms to be seen after repeated exposure, and it’s why this method is preferred for high-risk patients.
Furthermore, for the purpose of the patients’ peace of mind, it has been noted that CT scans could find abnormalities that aren’t cancerous. Most abnormalities are non-cancerous, and around only 25% present with risk of lung cancer. They would still need to be investigated though.