After news that lung cancer took the life of ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, and now threatens the life of Dana Reeve, the widow of actor Christopher Reeve, millions of Americans are asking why can't we screen for lung cancer with high-tech imaging devices like the spiral CT scan?
We know it can find lung abnormalities as small as a pea. "It is a technology that no one denies is more sensitive than chest x-rays," says Dr. Kristen Edmiston a cancer specialist at Inova Fairfax Hospital. That is the good news, but Dr. Edmiston says the problem is even though CT scans can spot small abnormalities, they may or may not be life threatening. It can produce such a large number of false positives; that it is only reserved for patients with high risk backgrounds and not for routine screenings.
So, to answer those questions doctors say this may well be a cancer-fighting tool of tomorrow, but we're not there yet. If patients routinely push for a CT scan to screen for lung cancer, it could lead to a huge increase in biopsies and other procedures that are painful, expensive and unnecessary.