Chest X-rays are the most commonly used screening tool for detecting head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for most head and neck cancers.
For the study, the research team led by Dr Yen-Bin Hsu evaluated 270 screening chest CT scans performed over 42 months in 192 patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
The scans were categorized as new cases, follow-up cases or recurrent cases, and results classified as normal or abnormal.
Of the 270 scans, 79 were considered abnormal, including 54 that identified a malignant neoplasm of the lung and 25 showing indeterminate abnormalities.
Neoplasm is the abnormal proliferation of cells that usually causes a lump or tumour.
"The rate of an abnormal scan was significantly higher in the follow-up case group (44.2 percent) than in the new case group (14.2 percent)," the authors write.
"Indeterminate lesions were common on chest CT in our study, and special attention should be paid to them," the authors write.
"Based on the progressive changes in follow-up scans, 44 percent of indeterminate lesions were eventually considered a malignant neoplasm of the lung.
"We also found that small (less than 1 centimeter) solitary nodules, which were usually resectable [operable], carried significantly higher chances (66.7 percent) of being a malignant neoplasm.
"For patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, chest diagnosis is crucial and may influence their treatment plan," they continue.
The researchers suggest chest CT for high-risk patients after every six months for the first two years during the follow-up period.
The study appears in Archives of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.