A large study has shown that screening programmes among people at risk of lung cancer could save lives.
The NELSON trial was carried out in the Netherlands and Belgium and involved 15,792 people who were at a high risk of developing lung cancer.
Participants were split into two groups at random – one group was offered screening and one group was not. The screening involved regular computerised tomography (CT) scans (where a person’s body is X-rayed at several angles before a computer puts together a detailed image). This could help to detect lung cancer at an earlier stage – when it is can be treated more easily.
As part of the study, each person was followed up for at least 10 years, to see if there was a difference in survival rates between those offered screening and those who were not. Overall, the researchers found that screening improved survival rates – with a 26% reduction in lung cancer deaths among men.
This trial could mark a potential turning point for lung cancer care. The European Respiratory Society (ERS) has welcomed these long-awaited results. ERS is encouraging countries in Europe to establish lung cancer screening programmes for people at high risk as soon as possible, and is calling upon the EU to produce guidelines to support its member states in doing so.
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