Multidisciplinary Approach to Screening for and Treating Lung Cancer: Low Dose Computed Tomography Screening Proves Important in Detecting Lung Cancer

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the United States. It has a five-year survival rate of only 15 percent. Often, lung cancers grow silently for many years and reach an advanced stage before causing symptoms that lead to diagnosis and treatment. But, there is some good news. Research from the National Cancer Institute's National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), found that screening with low dose computed tomography (CT) reduces lung cancer mortality by 20 percent. The NLST findings have led to widespread use of low dose CT scans for lung cancer screening, including at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, one of the country's premier academic medical center hospitals and is the primary teaching hospital of the Northwestern UniversityFeinberg School of Medicine.

"Screening for lung cancer is not a single test or event. It's a multidisciplinary care process," said Eric Hart, MD, radiologist and director of thoracic imaging at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of radiology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. "That process begins when an at-risk individual considers screening and doesn't end until action has been taken on the results of the CT exam."

At Northwestern Memorial, the multidisciplinary lung cancer group includes radiologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, oncologists and pathologists who all contribute their sub-specialty expertise to ensure the highest quality of care for lung cancer patients. This team assures the best therapies are recommended and tailored to the patient's individual needs, along with providing better understanding and access to innovative or relevant clinical trials.

"We will continue to promote smoking cessation as the primary strategy for lung cancer prevention," said Malcolm DeCamp, MD, chief of division of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Memorial and Fowler McCormick Professor of Surgery at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine. "But, we have an effective screening technique that we must promote throughout the entire community to detect lung cancer in its earliest stage."

The criteria developed from the NLST recommends that current and former smokers aged 55 to 74 who have smoked for 30 pack years or more, should be offered low dose CT screening. Prior to the NLST, no screening test for lung cancer had proven effective in reducing lung cancer mortality.

Northwestern Medicine®is the shared vision that joins Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and the Feinberg School in a collaborative effort to transform medicine through quality healthcare, academic excellence and scientific discovery.

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