To screen or not to screen for lung cancer

The recently released guidelines by the Canadian Task Force for Preventive Health Care recommend the use of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) to screen people at high risk of lung cancer.

Some studies have shown the Number Needed to Screen (to prevent one death from lung cancer) to be as low as 322. This number is better than other screening programs which makes sense as a higher-risk population (smokers) is being screened.

However, screening can cause harm from false positives, complications from invasive follow-up testing or over-diagnosis. Thus, the guidelines recommend that if screening is offered it should be ‘through an organized screening program and administered by specialized centres with multi-disciplinary care teams.”

Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) is currently not advising low-dose CT lung cancer screening of asymptomatic people. However, CCO is choosing pilot sites to explore organized programs further.