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Lung cancer screening - Saves money, saves lives

June 30, 2017

Lung cancer background

Lung cancer affects millions of families around the world, and treatment is becoming more and more expensive. Healthcare systems are struggling to afford the drugs and give people access to new cancer drugs, so prevention and early detection are very important. Chest cancer symptoms can often be overlooked, which creates a major issue with early prevention.

By diagnosing symptoms of lung cancer early on, it could be possible to improve lives, both in length and in quality. However, there are currently no national lung cancer screening programs in place, because there was little evidence that the benefit in terms of life improvement would outweigh the financial burden.

Lung Cancer

New research – Money & Life-saving screenings

The new research shows that large-scale lung cancer screening programs could be economically viable if they targeted high-risk people with signs of lung cancer. Lead author Dr. Sonya Cressman, of The Canadian Centre for Applied Research in Cancer Control, and The British Columbia Cancer Agency in Canada, said: "We need to think about how we manage lung cancer and focus on more economically viable strategies, including prevention and screening. Screening those at a high risk gives us the chance to prevent and treat a range of tobacco-related illnesses, and could also offer access to care for individuals who could be otherwise stigmatized or segregated from receiving treatment.”

Dr. Cressman and team looked at patient-level data from two major screening trials: the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST) and the Pan-Canadian Early Detection of Lung Cancer Study (PanCan). They built an economic model to simulate the costs and benefits of introducing lung cancer screening programs for high-risk people -- those who had a 2% or higher chance of developing lung cancer within six years.

High-risk patients lower costs

The researchers found that focusing on high-risk people could reduce the number of people who need to be screened by more than 80%. They calculated the cost of screening to be $20,724 per year of life saved; this means the screening would be considered cost-effective compared to the benchmark of $100,000 that is often paid for other cancer interventions in national healthcare.

"With increasing economic pressure from rising drug costs and a strong industry influence, I was attracted to the area of lung cancer screening as a way to harness existing potential within our healthcare system," commented Dr. Cressman. "Working with this team of investigators has driven the success of the study. The project arose from a strong multidisciplinary collaboration bringing together experts from across Canada who are passionate about public health and willing to invest their protected time in finding ways to optimize the way lung cancer care is delivered."

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