In the United States 158,040 people are expected to die in 2015 from lung cancer, making this disease a principal cause of death. Recently, low-dose CT scans for lung cancer screening in high risk smokers were approved to detect the disease in its early stages when patients are still asymptomatic.
Early detection of lung cancer is imperative for better clinical outcomes and in addition to high-risk smokers it is crucial to monitor and do appropriate follow-up of lung cancer survivors.
Results from a recent study, presented during the ATS 2015 International Conference, have shown that lung cancer survivors are at high-risk of lung cancer recurrence. “We looked closely at risk factors that may help in predicting cancer recurrence in lung cancer survivors,” study lead author Samjot Dhillon, MD, said in a news release. “What we learned is that patients with a history of lung cancer should have close long-term surveillance so their doctor can detect early on if the cancer is recurring or if there is another cancer developing.”
For the study researchers assessed a population of 192 lung cancer survivors who had chest CT scans and autofluorescence bronchoscopy (AFB) for a period of 8 years and a half. AFB is a method that allows clinicians to look for premalignant and early malignant lesions in the central lung airways while CT scans show large lymph nodes in the chest or nodules in the lungs. Both methods can detect lung cancer during its early stages.
The researchers assessed patients’ risk factors to search for a link between cancer recurrence, such as smoking status, smoking packs per year, respiratory disease, exposure to asbestos, prior cancers, and family history of lung cancer. Results revealed that 38% of the patients had cancer recurrence during this time period.
Results also showed several lung cancer predictors, including presence of a nodule on a CT scan; recurrence of another non-lung cancer; premalignant lesions on three AFB assessments located in the lung central airway; and smoking history. Each additional pack smoked per year increased by 1% the likelihood of having lung cancer again.
“Along with close medical surveillance for lung cancer recurrence, it is also important for patients to stop smoking as soon as possible since this is a known risk,” said Dhillon in the news release. “Every additional pack per year of smoking is associated with further increased risk of cancer recurrence.”