Low-dose CT for lung cancer screening: opportunities and challenges
Lung cancer is among the most frequently diagnosed cancers worldwide and the leading cause of cancer death in both males and females. Screening for lung cancer coupled with earlier intervention has long been studied as an approach to mortality reduction. However, minimal progress was achieved until recently, when low-dose spiral computed tomography (LDCT) screening demonstrated a 20% reduction in mortality from lung cancer in a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the National Lung Screening Trial, from the United States. On the basis of this finding, LDCT has been recommended for lung cancer screening in high-risk populations by several clinical guidelines. However, results from the following independent RCTs in Europe failed to show consistent conclusions. In addition, intractable problems gradually emerged with the progress of LDCT screening. This paper summarizes and discusses the main observations and challenges of LDCT screening for lung cancer. Before spreading implementation of LDCT screening, challenges, including high false-positive rates, overdiagnosis, enormous costs, and radiation risk, must be addressed. Complementary biomarkers and technical improvement are expected in the field of lung cancer screening in the near future.