Lung Cancer Screening–Studies Show Reduced Mortality

Arlene Mavko

Ultra low Dose Lung CT
Ultra low Dose Lung CT

NELSON and NLST Studies

With the aid of lung cancer screening, lung cancer deaths for both males and females who are high-risk former and current smokers are significantly reduced. Conclusions of a large study known as the NELSON lung cancer screening trial1 were announced at the 19th World Conference on Lung Cancer held in Toronto this year2:

  • Screening reduced lung cancer mortality for both males and females—a reduction of 26% for males (at 10 years follow-up) and 39-61% for females (at various years of follow-up).
  • 50% of lung cancers detected during the trial were very-early stage 1A cancers, 69% were stage 1A or 1B, and only 10-12% were diagnosed with more advanced stage IV lung cancers.

The NELSON study2 had a population of nearly 16,000 people and compared the results of the screened group to the non-screened control group. Each group had just under 8000 participants who were men and women between ages 50-74 with a smoking history of at least 10 cigarettes per day for 30 years or more or at least 15 cigarettes per day for at least 25 years. This smoking history estimated the lung cancer mortality risk of the participants.

The NELSON trial, conducted in Belgium and the Netherlands, is the second major trial of this type. The original landmark study was the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), which was conducted in the United States and published in 2011. The NELSON trial showed an even larger reduction in deaths than did the NLST, with 157 lung cancer deaths in the screening group as compared to 250 in the control group.

Lung Cancer Screening at SIR

Sarasota Interventional Radiology offers lung cancer screening using ultra-low dose CT scanning technology. Compared to in conventional chest CT scans, SIR’s sophisticated technology uses up to 90 percent less radiation, produces more detailed pictures, and is better at finding small lung abnormalities.

“We strongly believe in the value of screening exams for early detection of disease,” stated Gerald E. Grubbs, MD, founder and medical director of Sarasota Interventional Radiology (SIR Florida), “and the studies described above confirm the strong correlation with screening and survival in high-risk patients.”

Medicare Part B covers low-dose CT lung cancer screening once per year for individuals who meet certain conditions. Other insurers may also cover lung cancer screening for persons age 50 and older, with some covering at age 45. It is advisable to check directly with your insurance provider to see if it will cover the procedure.

It is important to note that screening is not a substitute for smoking cessation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported earlier this year that although smoking has declined from nearly 21% in 2005 to 15.5% in 2016, nearly 38 million American adults age 18 or higher still smoke. Data collected by the CDC also show that more people are quitting and many smokers are smoking less, but the toll on the overall health is still evident among the smoking population, with over 30 million Americans lining with a smoking-related disease.2

Each year on the third Thursday in November, the American Cancer Society sponsors the Great American Smokeout® as a motivational day for smokers to make a commitment to a tobacco-free life.3 Smokers will be assisted by health care providers, community organizations, and others who will engage is this campaign to challenge smokers to kick the habit. Mark your calendar for November 15 and plan ahead to execute your own plan to quit. Or better yet, don’t wait, quit smoking today!


1Cancer Imaging. 2011; 11(1A): S79–S84. Published online 2011 Oct 3. doi10.1102/1470-7330.2011.9020.

2Harrison, Pam. (2018, September 28). Second Large Study Shows That Lung Cancer Screening Works. Retrieved from

3CDC Press Release. (2018, January 18). Smoking is down, but almost 38 million American adults still smoke. Retrieved from

4The Great American Smokeout®. Retrieved from

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