First steps on national lung cancer screening program to begin in July

Lung cancer

By Michael Woodhead

13 May 2021

Early scoping of a potential national lung cancer screening program will begin from 1 July 2021 with funding allocated in the federal Budget.

Cancer Australia has announced it will lead the collaborative engagement of key stakeholders in the early design of a potential national lung cancer screening program comprising 2-yearly low-dose CT scans in high-risk individuals.

The initial work will be funded out of $6.9m funding for lung cancer programs announced in the Budget, which will also support the scoping and consideration of the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) requirements of a potential national lung cancer screening program.

The announcement was welcomed by groups such as the Lung Foundation and the Thoracic Oncology Group Of Australasia  (TOGA), which said that lung cancer screening program was estimated to save more than 12,000 lives within a decade through early detection and treatment.

Lung Foundation said a screening program was long overdue for Australia’s leading cause of cancer death.

“Together with our lung cancer advocates and supporters, we will continue to work with the Federal and State Governments to ensure that screening is fast-tracked,” it said.

“Today’s announcement is a positive sign that the Government is moving towards breaking down the stigma which has plagued lung cancer survival rates for decades. It is a step towards delivering best-practice care and services that inspire hope; and for those eligible for screening, it will be life-saving.”

“We know that screening works and want to see a program fully implemented as quickly as possible for all Australians at risk of lung cancer, including people affected by silicosis and occupational exposures. Lung cancer screening programs overseas have already proven to be effective in lowering mortality rates through early diagnosis and in Australia, Government-backed screening programs for breast, cervical and bowel cancers have dramatically decreased mortality rates.”

Minister for health Greg Hunt was recently given a Cancer Australia report on a lung cancer screening enquiry that recommended implementation of a national screening program targeted at current or former smokers aged 55 to 74 years.

The report envisaged a program that would use a risk assessment tool will then be used to determine eligibility for LDCT screening, which would be done through existing public and private radiology service providers.

A National Screening Register will be established to ensure that quality assurance standards are maintained and will enable research and effective Program functioning.

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