Our lung cancer screening research

A few years ago, we published our early results in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, and on July 9, 1999, on the front page of The New York Times.  This research showed that 85% of the cancers that are found with CT screening are small and in the more curable early stage; this trend has been confirmed by further research.

We already knew that there is a much better chance of curing small, early-stage lung cancers than those found in later stages; other researchers before us had found 10-year survival rates of 90% or more.

Chest x-rays done at the same time missed 85 percent of the early-stage cancers detected by the CT scans. We also came up with ways to measure the rate of tumor growth, which reduce the chances of doing unnecessary tests.

In October 2006, we published our 10-year results in the New England Journal of Medicine; the research includes over 31,000 patients who are considered to have a high risk of lung cancer.

We found that patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer on annual CT screening have an estimated cure rate of 80% The research showed that when cancers are found at the earliest stage and are promptly removed with surgery, patients have a 92% chance of being cured; 85% of the patients who were diagnosed with annual screening had this curable, early-stage cancer.

By contrast, 95% of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer after they start to have symptoms—which is how it is usually found without screening—will ultimately die of their disease.