Lung cancer screening could save over 9,000 Australian lives a year - Institute for Respiratory Health

Lung cancer screening could save over 9,000 Australian lives a year

Monday, August 01, 2022 | News

Lung cancer is Australia’s biggest cancer killer, killing more Australians than breast and bowel cancers combined.

But unlike breast and prostate cancer there is no national screening program to detect lung cancer, so by the time it’s picked up, it’s often too late.

This World Lung Cancer Day, Monday 1 August, researchers at the Institute for Respiratory Health based in Nedlands, are highlighting the need for a national lung cancer screening program to be funded by the Federal Government and for ongoing research to continue in the area.

Professor Fraser Brims, from the Institute for Respiratory Health says, “Lung cancer is no longer just about smoking. Up to 20 per cent of people with lung cancer in Australia have never smoked, exposure to asbestos can be another major risk factor.”

Professor Fraser Brims has successfully run a screening program in Western Australia for people exposed to asbestos for 10 years. His team use low-dose CT scans to help detect early-stage lung cancer.

“Lung cancer screening increases the chances of finding lung cancer in its earlier most curable stage,” Professor Brims said.

“It is often detected too late, when treatment options are limited, which is why screening is so essential to help save lives.

“Our study has screened more than 2,100 patients and we’ve discovered a lung cancer in 1:50 of them.

“85 per cent had early stage disease and we were able to offer them curative treatment. It’s worth noting that 1:5 of our patients had never smoked and would not be screened by the proposed Australian lung cancer screening program.

“This study is transforming lung cancer care as usually only about 20 per cent of patients might be cured.”  

The results of the study are being presented at the WA Thoracic Society for Australia and New Zealand Scientific Meeting this week in Perth.

Modelling shows up to 170,000 Australians will be diagnosed with lung cancer over the next decade and it will remain the leading cause of cancer death for the next two decades.

A report commissioned by PwC indicates that a lung cancer screening program will increase the chances of survival from 20 per cent to more than 90 per cent.

“Lung cancer is so often a silent killer – going undetected. Our lung cancer screening program shows if you catch it early you can help to provide the right treatment and save lives,” Professor Brims said.