November 20, 2015

Government says no to lung cancer screening in Australia

Lung Foundation Australia notes the Australia Government’s current decision not to introduce a national lung cancer screening program due to several unresolved issues and questions around implementation.

The Lung Foundation agrees that the evidence is still unresolved, however it was important that issues like screening remained on the agenda and that Government continue reviewing the screening options with the aim to introduce these programs as soon as there was sufficient evidence.

In the meantime, Lung Foundation Australia emphasised the need for patients and clinicians to be aware of the risks and symptoms. The Lung Foundation offers a free, two minute online lung health checklist as well as resources and training for patients and health professionals.

The Standing Committee on Screening position statement said there was some evidence to support annual screening for people at high risk of lung cancer using lowdose computed tomography (LDCT).

High risk individuals include adults aged 55 to 80 years with a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years, currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. However, there were still several unresolved issues that needed further consideration.

Some of these unresolved issues included:

  • a high false positive rate of screening with the risk of attendant harms from subsequent investigation
  • variability in follow up protocols for a positive test
  • uncertainty regarding the target population and screening interval
  • uncertainty regarding cost-effectiveness
  • the issue of screening versus smoking cessation measures

General practitioners and health professionals play an important role in managing people who have or may have lung cancer. The symptoms of lung cancer can be non-specific and mimic those of other conditions.

More information on lung cancer including signs and symptoms can be found at investigating symptoms of lung cancer: a guide for GPs by clicking here.

To read the full position statement, click here.

Source: The Limbic