Australia lags behind in lung cancer screening

Lung cancer

19 Jan 2016

The implementation of a targeted lung cancer screening program in Australia is being hampered by a lack of “vital information,” experts say in this week’s MJA.

Writing in an editorial titled Lung cancer screening in Australia: Progress or procrastination? Dr Fraser Brims, a consultant physician at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth and colleagues say that while there is progress internationally with lung cancer screening, there is far slower headway in Australia.

Lung cancer is the fourth leading cause of death, and kills more Australians than colon cancer and breast cancer combined.

“Primary prevention remains crucial and will reduce future lung cancer deaths, but the majority of lung cancer deaths are now occurring in former smokers who remain at elevated lifetime risk of lung cancer”, they wrote.

Screening with low-dose chest computed tomography has been shown to reduce lung cancer mortality by at least 20%.

But the implementation of a targeted screening program in Australia was being hampered by the lack of some “vital information”, including “an economic evaluation to assess health care cost utility; definition of a target population; false-positive rates; and best recruitment and uptake strategies”.

The feasibility of chest CT screening in the Australian setting has already been demonstrated with the Queensland Lung Cancer Screening Study (long-term follow-up near completion) and the Western Australia-based Asbestos Review Program, they said.

“The challenge facing Australia is the translation of international results into sustainable, cost-effective clinical practice, ensuring that the desired benefit outweighs the known harms, at the same time as enhancing tobacco control policies”, they concluded.

As reported by the limbic the Australian government’s standing committee on screening rejected a lung cancer screening program last year because of ‘unresolved issues’ and questions around cost.

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