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10/19/17

Researcher urges Alberta to fund lung cancer screening

BILL KAUFMANN

The province should fund a type of lung cancer screening that’s proven more effective than other kinds of tests for the disease, a University of Calgary researcher said Wednesday.

Studies conducted from 2008 to 2014 in eight Canadian cities, including Calgary, focused on smokers and ex-smokers between 50 and 75 years old, who underwent CT scans.

The tests detected lung cancers in 6.5 per cent of those 2,500 participants in the Pan Canadian Early Detection of Lung Cancer Study, said Dr. Alain Tremblay of the U of C’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“That’s high for any screening program, especially lung cancer, and for standard criteria tests, that number is three to four per cent,” said Tremblay.

A narrower, more precise focus on risk predictors bumped up those detection results and “eliminated the chance of false positives,” said the physician.

Perhaps most importantly, he said, the approach also detected cancers at an earlier stage.

“It’s cheaper to do surgery on an earlier case than using chemotherapy on an advanced cancer case,” said Tremblay.

That reason, and saving more lives, are why the province should conduct and cover the cost of such screenings on the general population, he said.

About 130,000 Albertans would qualify for the screening, said Tremblay, at a cost of $250 to $300 each.

“Though you could probably do it more efficiently than that,” he said.

“And it’s unreasonable to expect all those people would show up for screening tomorrow.”

People seen as high risk would receive a low-dose CT scan every one or two years, said Tremblay, who noted preventive screening is done for prostate, breast and colon cancer, though lung cancer is the biggest killer.

The study’s results are published in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology.

Longview resident Judy Wiebe underwent similar screening in a U of C clinical trial about two years ago, even though she wasn’t showing any symptoms.

The test detected cancerous tumours in the ex-smoker’s lungs that were then removed to give her a clean bill of health.

“It was really small (cancer), that’s the time to get it, otherwise, who knows?” said Wiebe, 80.

The woman said she’s surprised the approach isn’t widely used in Alberta.

“It’d be cheaper in the long run, and easing the toll on families would be worth it,” she said.

The province will review the study’s findings and also examine cancer screening in other jurisdictions, said Health Minister Sarah Hoffman.

“Any decisions to provide more coverage for this kind of screening would follow careful examination of the evidence,” she said.

Annually, more than 2,000 Albertans are diagnosed with lung cancer, most of them at an incurable stage.


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Source: http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/researcher-urges-alberta-to-fund-lung-cancer-screening