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Thorax. 2004 March; 59(3): 237–241.
PMCID: PMC1746965

Screening for lung cancer using low dose CT scanning


Background: Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related death in Ireland. The majority of lung cancers are inoperable at the time of diagnosis and consequently the overall 5 year survival is less than 10%. The objective of the ProActive Lung Cancer Detection (PALCAD) study was to evaluate whether low dose chest computed tomographic scanning (LDCCT) can detect early stage asymptomatic lung cancer in a high risk urban population.

Methods: Four hundred and forty nine subjects of median age 55 years (range 50–74) with a median pack year smoking history of 45 years (range 10–160), with no previous cancer history and medically fit to undergo thoracic surgery were recruited. After informed consent, LDCCT was performed on all subjects. Non-calcified nodules (NCNs) of [gt-or-equal, slanted]10 mm in diameter were referred for biopsy. Follow up with interval LDCCT at 6, 12 and 24 months to exclude growth was recommended for NCNs <10 mm in diameter.

Results: Six (1.3%) NCNs of [gt-or-equal, slanted]10 mm were detected of which one (0.23%) had non-small cell lung cancer stage 1; 145 NCNs of <10 mm were detected in 87 (19.4%) subjects. Mediastinal masses were detected in three subjects (0.7%)—one small cell lung cancer and two benign duplication cysts. Incidental pathology was noted in 276 patients (61.5%), most commonly emphysema and coronary artery calcification.

Conclusion: The prevalence of resectable lung cancer detected by LDCCT at baseline screening was low at 0.23%, but there was a high rate of significant incidental pathology.

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