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An Audit of Opportunistic Lung Cancer Screening in a Canadian Province

Posted by Angie Kinsman, for Dr. Victoria Linehan on October 19, 2021 in Chest

A new publication from Dr. Victoria Linehan!

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Lung cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in Canada. Early detection can improve outcomes and despite recommendations from the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care to screen patients who are 55 to 74 years old and have a 30+ pack-year history, formal screening programs are rare in Canada. Our goal was to determine if screening is being performed in a representative Canadian population, if recommendations are being followed, and how screening impacts lung cancer stage at diagnosis and prognosis.


A retrospective chart review was performed to identify patients either screened for lung cancer or imaged due to lung cancer symptoms in Eastern Newfoundland between 2015 and 2018. Age, smoking history, screening modality, diagnosis, cancer stage, and mortality were recorded.


Under 6.0% of the eligible population were screened for lung cancer with only 28.13% meeting age and smoking criteria and being screened appropriately with low-dose CT. However, 70% of patients that had lung cancers found by screening met age and smoking screening criteria. While lung cancer detection rates were similar, screening detected cancer in patients at an earlier stage (50% Stage 1) compared to patients who were not screened (20% Stage 1). Patients who were screened had an improved prognosis.


Physicians are opportunistically screening for lung cancer, but not consistently following screening guidelines. As screening is sensitive, leads to earlier stage diagnosis, and has a mortality benefit, implementation of an organized screening program could increase quality assurance and prevent many lung-cancer related deaths.


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