New early detection program catches lung cancer sooner, saving lives

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer around the world, including Taiwan. Catching it early makes all the difference for successful treatment.

Taiwan’s ground-breaking program to find lung cancer sooner rather than later is showing real promise. Dr. Pan-Chyr Yang shared the impressive results at a major conference on lung cancer in Singapore.

The program is unique because it doesn’t just focus on heavy smokers, which is the norm in countries like the United States and South Korea.

It also includes people who have a family history of lung cancer, broadening the net to catch more cases early on.

How Taiwan’s Screening Program Works

The program started in July 2022 and used a special kind of low-dose X-ray test, called Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT), to check people’s lungs for signs of cancer.

The aim was to find the cancer when it was still very small and easier to treat.

Two types of people were invited to get screened:

  1. Men aged 50-74 and women aged 45-74 who had a close relative—like a parent, child, or sibling—diagnosed with lung cancer.
  2. People aged 50-74 who had smoked heavily (at least 30 packs a year) and either planned to quit smoking or had quit in the last 15 years.

Doctors used special guidelines to understand the test results and decide what steps to take next for people who had signs of lung cancer.

Results Show Lives Can be Saved

Between July 2022 and June 2023, nearly 50,000 people were tested. More than half had a family history of lung cancer, and about 38% were heavy smokers.

The early findings were encouraging. About 9% of those tested had signs that might indicate cancer, and 1% were indeed confirmed to have lung cancer.

Here’s the really good news: 85% of the cancers found were in the very earliest stages, where the chances of successful treatment are much higher.

Director General Chao-Chun Wu of Taiwan’s Health Promotion Administration is optimistic about these early results, emphasizing the program’s potential to save lives through early detection.

Why This Matters

Taiwan’s program sets an example for how we might do a better job of catching lung cancer early in other countries, too. This is especially important because not all people who get lung cancer are heavy smokers.

By including people with a family history, Taiwan’s approach could be a model for how to more effectively find and treat lung cancer around the globe.

If you are a heavy smoker or have close relatives who have had lung cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened. Early detection could save your life.

If you care about lung health, please read studies about marijuana’s effects on lung health, and why some non-smokers get lung disease and some heavy smokers do not.

For more information about lung health, please see recent studies about how to minimize lung damage in COVID patients, and results showing this existing drug can save damaged lungs in COVID-19.

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