New Cancer Scan Promising, But Much Testing Remains

Dramatic decrease in mortality rate is contested by scientists
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 24, 2008 5:40 PM CDT
Cigarettes are shown in an ash try in this 2006 file photo.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst, FILE)
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(Newser) – A study claiming to dramatically reduce the risk of lung-cancer death is the object of intense scientific debate, Philip Boffey writes in the New York Times. Researchers screened asymptomatic smokers with spiral CT scans, which are more sensitive than the traditional chest X-ray. They estimate 92% of those found to have early-stage tumors, and get them removed, would survive the next decade.

The finding, if valid, is revolutionary, as lung cancer has a 95% mortality rate. But critics say the relative mortality benefits are unclear because the study lacked a control group of patients who weren’t scanned. The new scans find more tumors, but it’s possible the smaller cancers detected wouldn’t have been fatal anyway—and the biopsies and surgeries that follow have their own dangers.