Early detection no help in lung cancer.

It is a common belief that, if lung cancer is detected early enough, the medical profession can successfully treat it.

However, a study of 510 lung cancer patients showed that detecting the disease at a very early stage has no effect on survival, according to an article published in the June issue of Chest.

Writing in the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, Edward F. Patz, Jr., M.D., Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, along with four colleagues, studied 285 men and 225 women (average age 63) who were diagnosed with stage IA non-small cell lung cancer over an 18-year period from 1981 to 1999. When first diagnosed, their tumor size was less than three centimeters.

Yet, despite various medical treatments, including surgery, the patients fared no better than those whose cancer was diagnosed later in the development of the disease.

During 2000, approximately 177,000 new primary lung cancers will be diagnosed in the United States. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in both men and women. Approximately 160,000 deaths from the disease occur each year.

Lung cancer accounts for 28% of all cancer deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most cases occur between the ages of 60 and 80.

"Despite continued advances in diagnostic techniques, treatment protocols, and tumor biology," said Dr. Patz, "the survival rate for lung cancer has shown only minimal improvement over the past several decades."

SOURCES: Chest, June 2000.

"Early Lung Cancer Detection, No Impact on Survival," American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), June 14, 2000.

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