New Software Aids in Lung Cancer Diagnosis

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New clinical software conceived and developed in Canada will aid doctors worldwide in predicting which spots or lesions discovered in smokers’ lungs are benign or will eventually turn into lung cancer.

The pan-Canadian study has also developed a clinical risk calculator software that precisely catgorizes, nine times out of 10, benign and malignant spots or lesions on lungs that have been detected through CT scans.

The study’s data is set to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and is expected to have an instant affect on a global scale among health professionals who currently diagnose and treat individuals at risk for or who are diagnosed with lung cancer, and offer new evidence for developing and improving lung cancer screening programs.

“It’s made in Canada and the data is based on Canadian patients but the tool will be able to be used internationally; there’s no other tool like this internationally,” said head of thoracic (chest) radiology at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, and the study’s co-principal investigator, Dr. Daria Manos.LungCancer

Manos is also an assistant professor in the department of diagnostic radiology at Dalhousie University, as well as a local radiologist who reads and reports all the screening CTs.

Over 20,000 Canadians fall victim and die from lung cancer every year, making the disease the leading cause of death in Canada.

Therefore, “this new diagnostic tool will also prevent patients from dangerous side effects from having surgery or a biopsy for a nodule that is not cancer,” said Manos.

Within the population based study, a total of 12,029 lung cancer nodules were inspected after they were detected on CT scans of 2,961 current and former smokers, aged 50-75.

“We had just over 300 people enrolled locally and about 80 per cent of those patients would have something in their lungs — some little thing. The people who were involved in our study were high-risk, so these were heavy smokers,” said Manos.

“From those 300 patients who hailed from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, screening found early lung cancer in 11. And, of the 80 per cent who had a nodule (a little spot) in their lungs, only four per cent will actually end up having lung cancer in the next few years. And the problem is figuring out which of those little spots is going to turn into cancer. And right now we don’t have any good data on how dangerous these little spots are,” she added.

The clinical risk calculator software enables radiologists to provide patients with more information about whether or not a lesion will turn cancerous or not and allows them to provide family physicians with more information as well.

“Because basically what happens is people get very stressed out when they have anything in their lung and we (didn’t) have any good information to give them until now,” said Manos.

“Now, we can give them a percentage. (You can say): ‘OK, there’s going to be an 80 per cent chance this is cancer,’ or you can say: ‘Don’t worry about it. There’s a less than one per cent chance this is going to be cancer.’”

At present time, there are no Canadian guidelines that permit physicians to apply the software in clinical practice.

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