News | November 19, 2010

National Groups Urge Action on Federal CT Screening Guidelines

November 19, 2010 — Lung Cancer Alliance, American Legacy Foundation and Prevent Cancer Foundation have urged the federal government to expedite an immediate review of its recommendations on computed tomography (CT) screening for lung cancer.

The letter sent by these three leading health organizations to Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), urged an immediate review of U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines in view of the recent announcement by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) regarding its National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) results, as well as a number of papers reporting on improvements in the clinical management of screen-detected lung cancers.

Currently the USPSTF, which rates screening methods to help guide primary care doctors, does not recommend for or against CT screening for lung cancer.

However, last week the NCI terminated the NLST, a large-scale randomized controlled trial on lung cancer screening, when the early results indicated that lung cancer deaths in high-risk individuals were dramatically lower in the group screened by CT scans than those receiving a chest X-ray.

Laurie Fenton-Ambrose, President and CEO of Lung Cancer Alliance, said, “Now that the NCI has validated low-dose CT scans for those at high risk for lung cancer, we must move rapidly to revise the lung cancer screening recommendations to reflect this life-saving development.”

Lung cancer causes more deaths a year than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined, and only 16 percent of cases are being diagnosed at an early, curable stage.

“The year I was born, about 10,000 people died of lung cancer,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, president and CEO of Legacy. “Today, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, with 160,000 Americans losing their lives to lung cancer each year.”

The sense of urgency was echoed by Prevent Cancer Foundation President and Founder Carolyn R. Aldige, who said, “It is critical for men and women at high risk for lung cancer to have access to the most effective screening available for early detection of lung cancer. Prompt review by the USPSTF will initiate this process and ensure that screening is provided only to those most likely to benefit. We simply cannot afford not to take advantage of this breakthrough, and the opportunity to significantly reduce mortality from the number one cancer killer worldwide.”

AHRQ’s role is to support the USPSTF, an independent panel of nonfederal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine which conducts scientific evidence reviews of clinical preventive healthcare services (such as screening, counseling and preventive medications) and develops recommendations for primary care clinicians and health systems.

Currently the USPSTF gives CT screening for lung cancer an “I” recommendation, indicating that the evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against that screening method. PSA testing of men under 75 for prostate cancer also has an “I” recommendation.

The lung cancer recommendations were last updated by USPSTF in 2004.

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