For quite a while, there has been a question as to why some lung cancers are detected by radiograph, whereas others are not, but new research has uncovered ways to identify the types of people who may find themselves at risk for this form of disease, with the findings presented at the 2012 European Respiratory Society's Annual Congress in Vienna.
Over the last several years, there has not been a significant reduction in the mortality rates experienced as a result of lung cancer, and although chest radiographs can be implemented in order to screen for lung cancer, they are not always as effective as would be optimal, as there have been a number of cases in which patients have been diagnosed with certain cancers within twelve months of receiving a negative chest radiograph.
It is of course true that human error could be to blame for some of these instances, with the cancer perhaps being missed during the review of the radiograph - but even beyond human error, there can be instances when the cancer is undetectable due to the screening technique or because of the rapidity with which the cancer developed, allowing it to initiate and become evident within the less than twelve months between the negative screening and the appearance of the cancer itself. In all, there is a lot that is still not known about this form of lung cancer that sometimes goes undetected by screening chest radiographs (referred to as an "interval cancer"), and researchers have been aiming to analyze the type of people who tend to develop this cancer, as well as the characteristics of the disease, in order to understand it better.
In order to figure out these answers, over 77,000 people participated in a screening trial, in which they were followed up with after initial, negative screenings; of these 77,000-plus people, 450 individuals ended up being diagnosed with lung cancer during the year of their negative chest radiograph screening, of which 152 were not spotted initially by the radiograph.
In the end, the results revealed that these "interval cancers" were at a more advanced stage when they were diagnosed, and that they were typically small cell lung cancers (most likely to occur in males with a history of smoking) and were less often adenocarcinoma. The results of this study showed that x-rays migh be insufficient for detecting lung cancer, as this form of the disease - which is more aggressive - will likely end up being missed.
In all, this increased understanding will help the medical community to better detect interval cancer, and to save more lives in the process.