Chest X-rays fail to detect some types of lung cancers, according to a new study that further supports the use of computerized tomography scans as an alternative tool for diagnosis.
In the study of 77,445 men and women recruited between 1992 and 2001, 65 percent of the 152 lung cancer patients not identified by a chest X-ray remained undetected even after a second review of the images, according to researchers led by Paul Kvale of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. The cancers that remained undetected were at a more advanced stage when diagnosed and were more often small cell lung cancers, a rarer form of the disease. The study was presented at the European Respiratory Society annual meeting in Vienna.
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The findings support earlier research findings that chest X-rays may not detect lung cancers, the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., early enough. A study last year from the National Cancer Institute found similar rates of death from lung cancer among those who received annual chest X-rays and those who got their usual medical care.
"The results add to the evidence that a screening program using X-rays is not suitable for lung cancer, as this more aggressive form of the disease will be missed," Kvale said in a statement.
A U.S. National Institutes of Health study in 2010 showed that current and former smokers who received computerized tomography, or CT, scans were 20 percent less likely to die of lung cancer than those who got chest X-rays.
The American Lung Association in April released new guidelines recommending low-dose CT scans for current or former smokers age 55 to 74 who smoked on average a pack a day for 30 years. Given the risks associated with CT scans, the test is not recommended for everyone, the group said.