High-risk individuals may opt for lung cancer test

Individuals who are at high risk of developing lung cancer should consider having a test for the disease, according to the recommendations of cancer experts who developed a position statement at a 2003 conference in Lake Como, Italy.

At an earlier meeting, the 1998 Varese Conference, no consensus was reached about offering lung cancer screening outside of clinical trials. Dr. Gary M. Strauss from Brown Medical School in Rhode Island and colleagues report in the medical journal Chest.
Several studies on lung cancer screening are underway in various parts of the world. “Whenever possible, high-risk individuals should be strongly encouraged to participate in available trials,” the position statement asserts.

“It is critical that these trials be completed in a timely manner, because they will provide the most definitive evidence with regard to the benefit and risks of screening for lung cancer,” the statement concludes.

The authors explain that diagnostic techniques have improved and favorable lung cancer outcomes rely on the diagnosis and treatment at an early stage.

“For these reasons,” they write, “it is reasonable that individuals who are at high risk for lung cancer should be informed about their risk, and what is known and unknown about the potential benefits, limitations, and harms associated with testing for early lung cancer detection.”

“After discussion of the current state of knowledge,” the recommendations conclude, “it is reasonable for an individual at risk to choose to undergo testing for lung cancer.”

The authors conclude: “Any testing for lung cancer, if it is performed, should take place in settings with experience in the interpretation of imaging procedures for the detection of small lung cancers, and there should be ready access to multidisciplinary teams who work in a coordinated manner for further evaluation and follow-up.”

SOURCE: Chest, April 2005.

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Revision date: June 21, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD