Low-Dose CT for Lung Cancer Does Not Cause Long-Term Distress

Low-dose CT screening for lung cancer does not result in diminished health quality of life or long term anxiety, study says.

Lung cancer screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) may cause some short–term psychological discomfort in patients, but is not associated with long-term distress, according to an article published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO).

Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in Portland, Ore., undertook a study to determine the effects of LDCT lung cancer screening and patient-centered outcomes. This screening is now widely recommended for people at high risk of developing lung cancer – current and former heavy smokers.

The researchers searched for randomized controlled trials or large cohort studies that screened asymptomatic adults who were at high risk for lung cancer. Out of 8,215 abstracts, the researchers found six publications that reported on patient-centered outcomes. Five were from two European randomized controlled trials and one from a cohort study in the United States.

The findings from these publications indicated that while LDCT lung cancer screening could cause short-term anxiety or discomfort, the screening was not associated with health-related quality of life. Distress caused by false-positive results did increase in the short-term, but decreased over time to similar levels of those who had received negative results.

"Given that false positive results can never be entirely eliminated from LDCT screening and the suggestion that there is some short-term distress associated with a positive result, careful consideration of eligibility criteria, optimization of diagnostic algorithms, and thorough discussions of risks, benefits, values, preferences, results, implications of results, and follow-up plans with patients may improve patient-centered outcomes,” lead author Christopher Slatore, MD, MS, said in a release.