Low-dose Computed Tomography Screening for Lung Cancer and Pleural Mesothelioma in an Asbestos-Exposed Population
Source: The Oncologist
Advances in imaging technologies have had a lasting impact on medical science. Better imaging techniques let doctors diagnose disease in a much more efficient manner and higher resolution scans can often be the difference between life and death. These advances are important to cancer research, especially to research in lung cancer and mesothelioma, as the ability to accurately diagnose these cancers at an early stage can dramatically improve a patient’s prognosis. An active area of research involving these two cancers involves the study of the diagnostic value of the various computed tomography (CT) modalities. Researchers from Italy have recently released the results of a study they conducted that looked at the efficacy of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans for the diagnosis of lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma. The following is a summary of their findings.
Introduction to the Study
The researchers enrolled 1045 patients with a history of asbestos exposure into their study. Their aim was to evaluate the use of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) scans for the early diagnosis of lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma. Because the link between asbestos exposure and these malignancies is well established, they expected to find a certain subset of related illnesses in some of these patients. The patients enrolled had to meet the following criteria: 40-70 years of age, no prior cancers or other severe conditions, no initial suspicion of lung cancer and no other CT scans during the previous two years.
All of the patients underwent both LDCT and chest x-ray (CXR) and the major analysis the researchers undertook was to look at how LDCT compared to CXR for the diagnosis of a thoracic malignancy.
Their results were revealing.
In nearly every way it could be, LDCT was more effective at diagnosis of lung cancer than CXR was. The researchers report detecting noncalcified nodules (early phases of lung cancer) with LDCT 19 times more frequently than with CXR. LDCT also identified 10 more full-on malignant events than CXR did.
As regards pleural mesothelioma, none of the study population at the time had developed mesothelioma, but because of its extreme latency period, this does not necessarily discount its use for the diagnosis of mesothelioma. LDCT did, however, detect a much higher percentage of pleural abnormalities than did CXR.
The results of this study certainly point to LDCT’s greater diagnostic efficacy for the various forms of lung cancer. The jury is still out, however, on the use of this imaging modality for the diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma, but its greater accuracy in diagnosing other pleural abnormalities is certainly a positive sign.