Difficulties encountered managing nodules detected during a computed tomography lung cancer screening program

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Objective: The main challenge of screening a healthy population with low-dose computed tomography is to balance the excessive use of diagnostic procedures with the risk of delayed cancer detection. We evaluated the pitfalls, difficulties, and sources of mistakes in the management of lung nodules detected in volunteers in the Cosmos single-center screening trial. Methods: A total of 5201 asymptomatic high-risk volunteers underwent screening with multidetector low-dose computed tomography. Nodules detected at baseline or new nodules at annual screening received repeat low-dose computed tomography at 1 year if less than 5 mm, repeat low-dose computed tomography 3 to 6 months later if between 5 and 8 mm, and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography if more than 8 mm. Growing nodules at the annual screening received low-dose computed tomography at 6 months and computed tomography-positron emission tomography or surgical biopsy according to doubling time, type, and size. Results: During the first year of screening, 106 patients underwent lung biopsy and 91 lung cancers were identified (70% were stage I). Diagnosis was delayed (false-negative) in 6 patients (stage IIB in 1 patient, stage IIIA in 3 patients, and stage IV in 2 patients), including 2 small cell cancers and 1 central lesion. Surgical biopsy revealed benign disease (false-positives) in 15 cases (14%). Positron emission tomography sensitivity was 88% for prevalent cancers and 70% for cancers diagnosed after first annual screening. No needle biopsy procedures were performed in this cohort of patients. Conclusion: Low-dose computed tomography screening is effective for the early detection of lung cancers, but nodule management remains a challenge. Computed tomography-positron emission tomography is useful at baseline, but its sensitivity decreases significantly the subsequent year. Multidisciplinary management and experience are crucial for minimizing misdiagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-617
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery


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