Study Favors CT Scans Over X-Rays to Avoid Lung Cancer Deaths

A recently released study shows that current and former smokers in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the U.S. may be receiving routine chest X-rays to screen for lung cancer, but there is not as much benefit to x-ray screenings as originally thought. Prior to the study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, the conventional approach to lung cancer prevention was to perform routine chest X-rays on patients. The research, which tracked more than 150,000 patients over a 13 year span, demonstrated that routine chest X-rays did not have any significant impact in preventing lung cancer deaths.

Lung Cancer Screening

The current belief is that a chest X-ray can be helpful in the diagnosis of lung cancer in people with lung cancer symptoms. However, it is not the optimal method of preventive lung cancer dedication for current or former smokers.

The study confirmed that using the newer methodology of CT imaging scans is more beneficial and use equates to the prevention of more lung cancer related deaths. The director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society went as far as to say that the use of a chest X-ray in a healthy patient was "a waste of time."

Regular chest X-rays are still a common practice among physicians screening for lung cancer, but that guidelines for such a routine may be changing in the near future as the result of the findings of the research. For patients and doctors alike, cost may be part of the reason why chest X-rays tend to be used more prevalently. The cost of an x-ray is approximately $60, whereas the cost for a CT scan could be upward of several hundred dollars.

Danger of Missed Diagnosis

No matter the reason why a doctor may choose to do an x-ray to screen for cancer over a scan, the danger lies in missing a diagnosis. The ramifications of even a delay in diagnosis can have devastating consequences. If a doctor fails to diagnosis his patients properly, they may not receive the treatment they need at an early enough stage to have an impact. The best chance for a patient to defeat lung cancer is when identification and treatment occurs early. When it is not caught early cost increases, as does difficulty in treatment and likelihood for patient death.

Improved medical technology and techniques are giving patients and doctors the weapons to beat cancer, but if doctors fail to use optimal diagnostics, the battle may be over before it even has begun.