New figures from the UK lung cancer screening trial (UKLS) have suggested that patients with the early stages of lung cancer have up to a 73 per cent chance of surviving for five years or more. However, it highlights the importance of getting the disease diagnosed as early as possible.
A team at the University of Liverpool, along with Liverpool Heart & Chest Hospital, Papworth Hospital and the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital, aimed to encourage people to get screened for lung cancer by showing how it impacted on survival rates, as well as helping to identify those at the highest risk.
More than 35,000 people died from lung cancer in 2012, making it the most common cause of cancer death in the UK for both men and women. However, the main reason this figure is so high is because around seven in ten patients who are diagnosed with the disease are at advanced stages of the illness. This means that current treatment options are rarely very effective.
If the disease can be identified at an earlier stage the outcome is greatly improved.
UKLS was a randomised controlled trial comparing lung cancer screening to usual care in more than 4,000 patients. A population-based questionnaire was then used to identify high-risk individuals.
The screening used a low dose of an imaging procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to create detailed pictures, or scans, of areas inside the body called Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT).
The research found that people with "very early stage disease" have up to a 73 per cent chance of surviving for five years or more and over 80 per cent have had surgical interventions.
This is the reason behind a major national and international focus on CT screening trials to help identify the disease earlier on.
Professor John Field, clinical professor of molecular oncology and the chief investigator of the UKLS trial, said it "successfully demonstrated that we have a way to screen for lung cancer in high risk individuals in the UK".
"If we could detect lung cancer via screening of high risk individuals, it would make a major impact on the diagnosis of lung cancer at an earlier stage of the disease and would greatly improve the survival rates of those affected by this terrible disease," he explained.
However, researchers are currently waiting for the results of a Dutch CT screening trial, which will potentially provide stronger data to support the idea of introducing a national lung cancer screening programme in the UK.