Dr. Edward F. Patz, Jr. Quantifies Lung Cancer Screening Overdiagnosis

Dr. Ned Patz, Jr.
,  James and Alice Chen Professor of Radiology and a member of the Duke Cardiothoracic Imaging Division, has published results quantifying overdiagnosis in CT screening for lung cancer in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine .  “Overdiagnosis” refers to diagnosed cancers that would not result in death, and therefore would not need to be treated.   Dr. Patz and his team, analyzing data from the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST),  found that approximately 18% of lung cancers diagnosed by low dose CT screening represent overdiagnosis.

“Screening for lung cancer has the potential to reduce mortality, but in addition to detecting aggressive tumors, screening will also detect indolent tumors that otherwise may not cause clinical symptoms. These overdiagnosis cases represent an important potential harm of screening because they incur additional cost, anxiety, and morbidity associated with cancer treatment.”

– Ned Patz, Jr. M.D.

Overdiagnosis is an inherent risk in all screening exams, and the rate of overdiagnosis for lung cancer with CT screening was found to be lower than that for available screening exams for other cancers.  The study results are important in quantifying the phenomena of lung cancer overdiagnosis and provide additional information for helping physicians and patients make informed decisions regarding screening and its possible risks.