Lung cancer screening: did we really need a randomized controlled trial?

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Abstract

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the USA. Within the past decade, two large trials (the National Lung Screening Trial Research and the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program) confirmed a significant role for low-dose CT (LDCT) screening in identifying early stages of cancer leading to reduced mortality in high-risk patients. Given the evidence, the US Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation in favour of LDCT screening for high-risk individuals. Despite the strong support for LDCT among physicians who treat lung cancer and cumulative data demonstrating a survival benefit for screening and early detection, it took more than a decade for lung cancer screening to be embraced at the policy level. With many lives lost in the interim, did we really need a randomized controlled trial to make this decision?

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