Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed, affecting more than 200,000 Americans each year. Approximately 150,000 people die each year from the disease. Although the majority of cases are caused by cigarette smoking, between 10 and 20 percent of the cases are discovered in nonsmokers as well. Unfortunately, by the time a cancer is discovered, it is usually quite advanced and difficult to treat.
A national study was performed to determine if chest X-rays or CAT scans of the lung would be a strong indicator of detecting early lung cancer. The study looked at smokers who were between the ages of 55 and 74 and who were characterized as heavy current or former smokers. Each group received either a yearly chest X-ray or a low-dose computed tomography lung cancer screening (LDCT). After several years, the death rate of the group that underwent CT scans was approximately 20 percent lower than the chest X-ray group. In addition, the CT scan detected a significantly higher number of "suspected" cancers allowing for earlier intervention and treatment.