What is a lung cancer screening programme?

Lung cancer screening consists of yearly consultations, lung function and low dose CT assessments undertaken by a team of lung cancer specialists to define your personal risk of lung cancer (in percentage) to identify (and manage) any lung abnormalities with an aim to detect lung cancer in an early stage.

Can any doctor offer lung cancer screening?

Expert bodies around the world recommend that lung cancer screening should be performed in centres with specific expertise, a multi-disciplinary team of lung cancer experts, dedicated radiology protocols designed to minimise radiation expose and defined protocols to manage any abnormalities in the safest possible way. Therefore it is strongly recommend that lung cancer screening is only performed in specialist centres with a dedicated lung cancer screening programme.

What are the benefits of lung cancer screening?

A large randomised trial in the US has demonstrated a 20% reduction in lung cancer deaths for patients at risk of lung cancer who underwent CT screening.

What are the risks of lung cancer screening?

The risks of lung cancer screening include radiation exposure and risks associated with the biopsy of screen detected nodules (see below) that are suspicious for cancer.

What is the amount of radiation exposure?

For the purposes of lung cancer screening, we use a low dose radiation exposure protocol that is the same as a number of chest x-rays.

What happens if a “nodule” is detected?

The presence of a nodule does not necessarily mean that you have cancer. With modern high resolution CT scans, lung nodules are a common and many are not related to cancer. Patients are managed differently depending on the appearance and size of the nodules. This is either a series of follow up low dose CT scans (to determine if the nodules are increasing in size) or a biopsy. In general the number of patients that will require a biopsy is very small.

What does a biopsy mean?

A “biopsy” is a procedure that takes a sample of the lung (that contains the nodule) to allow us to determine cancer. For large nodules, a direct needle biopsy undertaken using CT guidance with local anaesthetic can be performed. For smaller nodules, a keyhole surgery biopsy may be required.

What are the complications of a biopsy?

Biopsies procedures are performed routinely and in general are safe procedures. However even in the best hands, complications can occur and with a CT biopsy this can include a collapsed lung (that would require a chest drain) and bleeding. As with any surgery or operation, complications include the risk of death (this is less than 1%), bleeding and infection.

How long do I need to be followed up for?

Currently experts have not yet determined the optimal length of time required for screening as lung cancer risk increases with age. Yearly screening up to the age where you can still receive treatment for lung cancer is currently recommended by our screening service.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss lung cancer screening please visit contact me.