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Lung cancer scans may do more harm than good

Ohio smokers may be interested to learn that Medicare announced that it would provide the funding for annual lung screening for a certain group of smokers. Based on a 2011 study, it is believed that the screenings could reduce lung cancer fatalities by approximately 20 percent.

While the screenings could save thousands of lives each year, however, some doctors are worried that the scans could do more harm than good. As one Dartmouth professor noted, the scans may find very early lung cancers, but it may reveal cancers that never become dangerous due to their slow growth. In approximately 25 percent of patients, doctors found non-cancerous abnormalities that led to risky biopsies and extensive follow-up testing. Some of the tests could result in serious complications, such a lung collapse.

The professor also voiced additional concerns. In the study, the radiologists who analyzed the CT scans were all highly skilled at doing so. They were also extremely cautious in ensuring that the patients were well aware of the high rate of false positives and the risks of more invasive tests. When the data is compared, approximately 3.3 deaths out of every 1,000 patients were averted over a five-year period with the use of spiral CT scanning; 233 out of every 1,000 patients experience false positives with the same five-year period.

More than 150,000 people are killed by lung cancer in the United States alone every year. If a patient's doctor suggests that the patient undergo a CT scan to look for lung abnormalities without providing the information regarding the risks of false positives, the patient may potentially be eligible to file a medical malpractice claim should complications occur. An attorney may help the patient seek compensation for any unneeded or dangerous procedures.

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