June 27, 2012

2010 November 24 – Call for Australian Screening Trial

as US Study Shows Dramatic Fall in Lung Cancer Deaths 

A new US study has found screening current and former heavy smokers with low dose CT scans can significantly reduce their risk of dying from lung cancer.

The National Lung Screening Trial – sponsored by the US Government – studied 53,500 current and former smokers who had smoked at least a pack a day for 30 years.  It found there were 20 per cent fewer deaths among those who underwent annual CT scans compared with those who received standard chest X-rays.

The Australian Lung Foundation is the only charity in Australia dedicated to defeating lung cancer and strongly urges the Federal Government to fund a lung cancer screening trial here in Australia similar to the National Lung Screening Trial in the US.

“These results are very encouraging as they show CT scans to be a more effective method for diagnosing early stage lung cancer than traditional X-rays.  In other words, they save more Australian lives,” said William Darbishire, CEO of The Australian Lung Foundation.

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the world.  In Australia, lung cancer claims the lives of 20 people every day – that’s more than breast, ovarian and prostate cancer combined. 

“Lung cancer’s high mortality rate is primarily due to the fact that it is not being diagnosed early enough,” Mr Darbishire said.

“We have mammograms for the early detection breast cancer and Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) tests for diagnosing prostate cancer early, and, as a result, we have seen a significant drop in the mortality rates of both these cancers. 

“We must now turn our attention to lung cancer and work towards developing effective screening methods that catch this deadly disease as early as possible, long before people develop any symptoms and when treatment, such as surgery, is still an option.

“Due to its vague symptoms and the current screening gap, lung cancer is often not detected until it is well advanced and has spread throughout the body.  The Australian Lung Foundation calls on the government to make lung health a priority in Australia by funding new screening trials now,” he said.

In Australia, more than 9,100 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year and 7,600 die from this debilitating disease annually.  Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer – just 15 per cent of those diagnosed will see out the next five years.

This is a statistic that 30-year-old lung cancer survivor, Victoria Taber, knows all too well.  The non-smoking Canberra resident was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in December 2009 during a routine medical examination. 

“I was about to move to Canada to take part in a teacher exchange program and had to have a chest X-ray as part of the required medical exam.  That X-ray found a tumour in my left lung and, despite having no symptoms and being a non-smoker, I was diagnosed with lung cancer,” Ms Taber said.

Since then, the newlywed Ms Taber has cancelled her travel plans, had her left lung removed, and has been treated with both chemotherapy and radiation.  Thanks to the early and chance detection of the tumour, Ms Taber’s doctors believe they have been able to treat and remove all her cancer.

The lung cancer survivor believes it is vital that funding for lung cancer research be increased and wants people to be aware that lung cancer is not just a smokers’ disease. 

“I’m living proof that lung cancer doesn’t discriminate – it affects the old and the young, smokers and non smokers – and is the most deadly cancer in Australia.  I was so lucky to have been diagnosed early enough so doctors could operate and save my life.  We must do all we can to detect lung cancer as early as possible to give lung cancer patients a better chance at survival,” Ms Taber said.

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Media: To arrange an interview with The Australian Lung Foundation’s CEO, William Darbishire or lung cancer survivor Victoria Taber, please contact Melissa Pizzato, National Marketing and PR Manager, The Australian Lung Foundation on (07) 3251 3646,

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