- People undergoing lung cancer screening assume
that the tests can prevent them from getting the disease, when it only
detects tumor early
- Quitting smoking is the only way to reduce the
risk of developing lung cancer
- Smokers have to be educated on the real reason behind regular
at risk of lung cancer are mistaken about the benefits and limitations of
regular lung cancer screenings, according
to a study by the Veterans Affairs (VA) Center of Innovation for
Veteran-Centered and Value-Driven Care in Seattle.
Tobacco use via smoking is by far
the leading risk factor for lung cancer causing nearly 80% of lung cancer
The risk is many times higher for smokers than for non-smokers and increases
proportionally with the number of cigarettes and years of smoking.
‘Screening tests for lung cancer aid in catching the disease early and preventing its advancement, whereas, the people undergoing the screening, mostly smokers are under the wrong impression that it can prevent their chances of developing the disease.’
have the same amount of risk as regular cigarettes. Cigar and pipe smoking are
equally capable of causing lung cancer.
Use of Low-dose Computed Tomography
cancer screenings using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) have been
implemented nationwide in the United States and in VA since 2011; the reason
being periodic screening had benefits of lowering the chance of death from lung
cancer through early detection. However, patients screened in VA medical center
recently were confused about how the screening helps them.
of them who were smokers were under the assumption that screening could reduce
their risk of developing lung cancer rather than quitting smoking.
light of these findings, Dr. Jaimee L. Heffner, lead author on the paper,
emphasized that it was important to communicate to patients the importance of
quitting rather than just relying on screenings to protect them from cancer.
"Quitting smoking is by far the most
important thing a person can do to prevent lung
as well as a host of other diseases caused by tobacco use,
and it's important that this message doesn't get lost in the discussion of lung
cancer screening," he said. Heffner, with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer
Research Center in Seattle, collaborated with the VA team on the study. The study appeared in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society
In an earlier National
Lung Screening Trial in 2011, the National Cancer Institute (part of the
National Institutes of Health) had screened more than 53,000 current or former
heavy smokers for lung cancer using either an LDCT or a standard chest X-ray.
LDCT, multiple X-rays are taken of the entire chest; what we get in the end is
a comprehensive detailed image of the lungs compared to a standard single chest
smokers had a 15 to 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer when they
used the LDCT machine compared to the standard chest X-ray owning to the fact
that an LDCT presents a complete picture of the chest and lungs, and gives
doctors a chance to catch and treat lung cancer more effectively than the old
current study wanted to test patients' actual knowledge about lung cancer and
its screening as it was unclear how well patients understand the benefits and
limitations of LDCT scans.
Details of the Study
participants (smokers) first underwent an LDCT screening at one of four
Veterans Affairs medical centers.
the scan, the researchers surveyed 83 smokers and asked them a series of questions about smoking and
lung cancer screening.
participant was asked five questions -
1. Does your chance of getting lung
cancer decrease if you have a lung cancer screening
2.Which disease causes the most number of deaths in
Americans who are smokers? (Correct answer: Heart disease.)
3.Are you safe from lung cancer for at least 12 months
if nothing abnormal or suspicious is found on your lung cancer screening test?
True or false (Correct answer: False.)
True or false: Do all nodules or spots found in the
lungs grow to be dangerous later on in life? (Correct answer: False.)
5.Does lung cancer screening prevent the most
premature deaths for people over ages 55 that are current smokers, or does quitting smoking
(Correct answer: Quitting smoking.)
- Only 7 percent of patients answered all five questions correctly
- Almost all participants got at least one answer wrong
- The percentage of people who answered questions 1, 2, 3, and 4
wrong was 39, 66, 39, and 49 percent respectively
- Nearly half (47%) of the patients got the last question wrong;
they thought lung cancer screenings protected them against death better
than quitting smoking
quizzed participants on basic health literacy and found out that the
participants with lower general knowledge about health and medicine were the
ones who answered more questions wrong on the screening survey.
patients are under the impression that lung cancer screenings are more
protective against cancer than what they actually are."Our
results illustrate just how wide a gap exists between the expectations and the
reality of lung cancer screening benefits among some groups of current smokers
," they write.
authors suggest a couple of reasons for misinterpreting the real purpose of a
screening test. Smokers might be confusing
cancer mortality (chances of dying from lung cancer) and the risk associated
with it (chances of getting
cancer because of smoking)
The second reason could be psychological - smokers who
might not want to quit believe that lung cancer screenings have a protective
value equal to quitting
earlier study conducted by the same researchers in 2015 had found that some of
the smokers had lowered motivation to stop because they believed that the tests
protected them from the harms of smoking
team thinks that VA needs to take more
efforts to make patients understand what the LDCT screenings tell them and what
they do not. They explain, "Our
findings suggest that messages about benefits and limitations of LDCT for lung
cancer screening are either not being provided or are not being actively
received and/or recalled."
providers should regularly check the patients' knowledge during the
decision-making process to overcome this hurdle.
- Smokers hazy on actual benefits of lung cancer screenings - (https://www.research.va.gov/currents/0718-Smokers-hazy-on-actual-benefits-of-lung-cancer-screenings.cfm)
- Lung Cancer - (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer.html)