CT exams help smokers kick the habit

May 25, 2005

Debate may continue about the benefits of CT screening for lung cancer, but the graphic display of disease on CT scans apparently helps persuade patients to quit smoking.

Debate may continue about the benefits of CT screening for lung cancer, but the graphic display of disease on CT scans apparently helps persuade patients to quit smoking.

Patients having a series of abnormal lung CT scans were more likely to abstain from smoking and to remain smoke-free after three years than those with fewer abnormal scans, according to a study published in the May 15 issue of Cancer.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, conducted a longitudinal study of 926 current smokers and 594 former smokers. Participants were examined three times annually with low-dose fast spiral chest CT. Investigators led by Cynthia O. Townsend, Ph.D., also reported on their ongoing smoking status.

Previous studies had indicated that a single abnormal CT lung exam did not seem to precipitate smoking cessation. Investigators in the current study found a direct relationship, however, between smoking cessation and an increasing number of abnormal CT scans.

Of patients who received an abnormal exam in each of the three years, 41.9% reported smoking abstinence. Cessation rates decreased with fewer abnormal exams:

  • two abnormal screens: 28%

  • one abnormal screen: 24.2%

  • no abnormal screens: 19.8%

Several factors contributed to smoking abstinence among baseline smokers: older age, worse baseline pulmonary function, and previous-year abnormal CT exam.

The study had certain limitations: Participants were mainly drawn from a white Minnesota population, and their smoking status was self-reported.

Multiple CT lung scans may improve prevention efforts by improving patients' awareness of their cancer risk, providing them with valuable health information, and increasing interaction between patients and health providers, according to the authors.

Fore more information from the online Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Early data discourage CT lung cancer screening

PET shows smoking harms organs

Societal factors portend great future for CT screening exam

Lung cancer screening plans face backlash