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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2001 Jun;121(6):1053-7.

Detection of early-stage lung cancer: computed tomographic scan or chest radiograph?

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Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Weill-Cornell Medical College, 1300 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.



Computed tomography has recently been proposed as a useful method for the early detection of lung cancer. In this study we compared the stage distribution of lung cancers detected by a computed tomographic scan with that of lung cancers detected by a routine chest x-ray film.


Two groups of patients with biopsy-proven non-small cell lung cancer were reviewed. In the first group of 32 patients, the tumors were detected by a computed tomographic scan. In a second group (n = 101), the lung cancers were detected on routine chest x-ray films. Patients with pulmonary symptoms or a history of cancer were excluded.


There was no difference in age, sex, or cell-type distribution between the 2 groups. A significantly greater number of patients undergoing a computed tomographic scan had stage IA disease compared with those having an x-ray film. Of the 32 patients in the group having a scan, 10 had tumors 1 cm or less in size versus 6 of 101 in the group having a chest radiograph. Additionally, there was a significant reduction in advanced stage disease in the group having a scan.


In this retrospective study, a higher incidence of stage IA lung cancers and significantly fewer cases of more advanced disease were observed in patients screened with computed tomography than in those having a chest radiograph. These data suggest that computed tomographic screening may be of value in improving the survival of patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

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