When lung cancer is caught at an early stage it’s potentially curable. The aim of LungScreen WA is to improve and develop ways of finding lung cancer when it is in this early stage.
There is great promise in screening for early lung cancer using low dose CT scans, but before it will be adopted more widely, there are many questions that need to be answered.
These are just some of the questions and work that the LungScreen WA team are working on.
What is the best way to find out who is at high risk of lung cancer?
Screening for early lung cancer is only effective when we screen high-risk people.
How can we best describe and communicate about the risks and benefits of screening for early lung cancer?
There is a fine balance of potential risk and benefit and people need to be aware of the pros and cons of screening.
When something abnormal is found on a CT scan, what is the chance that it is cancer?
How can we best predict this? Abnormalities on CT scans are very common, but most are not cancer – we are testing a new way to help doctors decide what to do with the scan results.
Leaning about what doctors think and understand about screening for early lung cancer.
If lung cancer screening is going to work, we need to know what GPs and other doctors know and think so they can offer the best service for patients.
Can computer software automatically detect early lung cancer on CT scans?
It takes a long time for specialists to report CT scans and a reliable computer program might be very helpful.
How best to recruit people to a screening program for lung cancer?
Most screening programs are quite simple to get people involved, screening for early lung cancer is a lot more complicated because most people have a low risk of lung cancer and don’t need screening.
Asbestos exposure and the risk of lung cancer
In WA, asbestos use has been widespread and we are running a project to screen people who have been exposed and learn more as to who is at raised risk for lung cancer.
After surgery for lung cancer – what is the best way to follow patients up?
Currently follow up is based in specialist hospitals with multiple CT scans – this may not be the best or most preferred way.
Optimising the lowest dose from a CT scan
While the dose of radiation from a modern CT scanner is now very small, we are constantly trying to find ways of lowering the dose, while, still being able to see any important changes on the CT scan.
Between 2015-2017 we ran a small test project to better understand some of the challenges for screening for early lung cancer using LDCT. All the scans were performed in community radiology centres (i.e. not in busy hospitals). We also tested different ways of choosing who is at risk of lung cancer (and therefore should get a LDCT), and also a different way of following up repeat CT scans using a protocol to guide decisions.
From nearly 50 people taking part, we found that we can use a telephone-based risk questionnaire effectively, we found (and treated) several early lung cancers (meaning the risk-test worked well) and all participants were followed up very well using the protocol.
The results of this study will help inform policy making within WA and Australia. A similar approach is being further tested in the big international lung screen trial (ILST), that we are also part of.
LungScreen WA team
- Jacqui Logan, ILST Study Manager for WA
- Siobhan Dormer, Research Nurse
- Dr Kuan P Lim, Research Fellow
- Dr Ed Harris, Research Fellow
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