Diagnosing lung cancer early

The Lung Cancer Alliance issued a press release today announcing results of a study on early-stage screening for lung cancer. Here is an excerpt:

The first ever actuarial analysis of lung cancer mortality, published today in Population Health Management Journal,  provides strong evidence that earlier detection could reduce the number of late stage lung cancer deaths by over 70,000 people each year in the US. Calling the number “profound,” Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) President Laurie Fenton-Ambrose said, “This would be the equivalent of eliminating all deaths from breast and prostate cancer each year.  It clearly demonstrates why we must make research and development of earlier detection tools for lung cancer a public health priority.”  

The study was carried out by Milliman Inc., an internationally renowned actuarial firm, and commissioned by Lung Cancer Alliance, the American Legacy Foundation, the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, Joan’s Legacy Foundation, Lungevity Foundation, the Prevent Cancer Foundation and the Thomas G. LaBrecque Foundation.

Bruce S. Pyenson, FSA, one of the co-authors of the study said, “We found that higher stage at diagnosis was profoundly associated with higher all-cause mortality and lower stage at diagnosis had profoundly lower all-cause mortality.”

“Our reporting all-cause mortality is perhaps more relevant to patients than the more common disease-specific survival or 5-year survival, as patients probably are more concerned about overall survival, not whether they face death from cancer, treatment side-effects, or something else,”  he noted.

The study analyzed detailed records of over 241,000 lung cancer patients diagnosed and treated between 1988 and 2003 from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database of the National Cancer Institute.

Mortality rates from those records were compared to demographically- and year-adjusted standard national mortality rates to develop “load” mortality ratios. These show the added mortality burden that treated lung cancer brings to patients, and how that burden dramatically increases by stage.

Read the full press release here.