National Lung Cancer Screening Program

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia. Most cases are diagnosed at a late stage when treatment options are limited. Alongside passionate consumer advocates, Lung Foundation Australia has led advocacy efforts for a national lung cancer screening program, that evidence shows will improve early diagnosis and save over 12,000 lives. In 2023, the Federal Government announced this was to become a reality, with the program being funded and set to start in July 2025.

Lung cancer screening - A journey

The ability to save lives by screening for lung cancer using low-dose computed tomography chest scans (LDCT) is no longer in doubt, following the publication and presentation of data from screening programs in the Unites States and the United Kingdom. However, Australia does not have a national lung cancer screening service.

As a result of engagement by consumer advocates and Lung Foundation Australia, the then Minister for Health tasked Cancer Australia, in October 2019, with assessing the feasibility of conducting a lung cancer screening service in Australia. Information on the Cancer Australia enquiry can be found here.

Lung Foundation Australia made a submission in support of a national screening program which you can read here.

Cancer Australia’s report recommended lung cancer screening in Australia and found it would be cost-effective and save over 12,000 lives over the first 10 years of the program.

Lung Foundation Australia launched the Lung Cancer Blueprint: The Next Breath, which recommends the Australian Government fund and implement a targeted national lung cancer screening program.

The Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) reviewed the evidence and approved the feasibility of a targeted national lung cancer screening program in Australia.

In May 2023, the Australian Government announced their budget, which included $264m over 4 years for lung cancer screening, and $101m per year thereafter. Read our statement following the funding announcement of this life-saving program.

The work doesn’t stop here. We are committed to working with the Australian Government in the implementation of this new cancer screening program and recognise the importance of equitable access, cultural safety and co-design, reducing stigma, supporting smoking cessation efforts, education and training for health professionals, and supporting Australians through the healthcare system. We can’t do this alone.

Key statistics

 Lung cancer is often detected too late when treatment options are limited

 Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia

 Each year over 13,000 Australians are diagnosed with lung canceri

 Lung cancer has the lowest five-year survivorship out of the top cancersii

  • Lung cancer – 20%
  • Bowel cancer – 70%
  • Cervical cancer – 74%
  • Breast cancer – 92%
  • Melanoma skin cancer – 92%
  • Prostate cancer – 95%

 In 2015-2016, lung cancer cost the health system $448.4millioniii

 The key to improving survival and quality of life of Australians affected by lung cancer is to diagnose lung cancer early.

Key points from Cancer Australia’s report

 The program outlined would be cost effective with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $83,545 per QALY gained.

 Based on the national and international evidence, a screening program using biennial low dose computed tomography in asymptomatic high-risk Australians could detect cancers in their early stages when treatment is most likely to be successful.

 A targeted lung cancer screening program would save lives, reduce lung cancer mortality in Australia by 20% in the screened population, and improve the survival, quality of life and productivity of Australians affected by lung cancer.

 It is estimated that in the first 10 years of a lung cancer screening program in Australia, over 70% of all screen detected lung cancers would be diagnosed at an early stage, over 12,000 deaths would be prevented and up to 50,000 quality adjusted life years would be gained.

 Lung cancer has a greater proportional impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people in regional and rural areas, and those of lower socioeconomic status. Through research, analysis and consultation with key stakeholders, Cancer Australia has defined the elements and framework for delivery of a cost-effective and equitable national lung cancer screening program in Australia.v

Lung Cancer Scorecard 2023

Our ‘Lung Cancer Scorecard 2023’ that highlights progress and compares outcomes between Australia’s most common cancers. Read more by clicling on link below.

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Lung Cancer Blueprint 2.0

The Blueprint, The Next Breath: Accelerating Lung Cancer Reform in Australia, identifies the critical issues in lung cancer that need government investment and coordinated national action. Read more by clicling on link below.

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