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Lifesaving Lung Cancer Screening Now Offered at Huntsman Cancer Institute

Mar 09, 2012
Lung Cancer Press Conference

SALT LAKE CITY, March 9, 2012—Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah is now offering lung-cancer screening using low-radiation CT (computed tomography) technology.

Until recently, it was difficult to detect lung cancer until a patient displayed symptoms, at which time the cancer was usually advanced and incurable. Now, after a study published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found 20 percent fewer lung cancer deaths among trial participants screened with low-dose CT, Huntsman Cancer Institute is able to offer this service.

Following guidelines developed by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), of which HCI is a contributing member, the low-dose CT screening will be available only for individuals between the ages of 55 and 74 who are current or former smokers with a history of at least 30 pack-years of smoking (a pack year equals the number of packs smoked per day times the number of years smoked) and with no symptoms of lung cancer and no history of cancer within the last five years. Active smokers will be provided information on smoking cessation programs.

"Currently lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the world," says Shamus Carr, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Utah and the only surgeon in the greater Salt Lake area that routinely does video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomies (VATS) for early stage lung cancer. "A 20 percent mortality benefit for people at high risk for the disease is more than we see with mammography and colonoscopy, both common screening procedures for cancer. This new screening ability will save countless lives."

He adds: "Just because we have a way to screen for lung cancer does not diminish our focus on getting smokers to try and quit."

The American Cancer Society estimates that 226,160 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2012, 880 of them in Utah. Nationally, more than 160,000 people will die from the disease. The greatest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking tobacco.

The NEJM report, which followed more than 50,000 patients for almost 10 years, is the only completed randomized control trial of lung-cancer screening. The study, called the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), randomly assigned participants to one of two screening procedures—either a low-dose spiral CT or a standard chest X-ray—given annually for three years. Twenty percent fewer deaths from lung cancer were reported in the group given CT scanning. The University of Utah screened 3,300 patients for the study.

HCI offers a full range of lung cancer services, including consultation, diagnosis, and treatment, with a multidisciplinary team of specialists that includes thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, pulmonologists, pathologists, radiation oncologists, and radiologists.

Interested individuals who would like more information about lung cancer screening may call the Huntsman Cancer Learning Center at 888-424-2100 or visit