Objective Screening for lung cancer with computed tomography may detect cancers at an earlier stage but may also result in overdiagnosis. We reviewed the thoracic surgical operations performed on patients enrolled in our computed tomographic screening program. Methods From January 1999 through December 2002, screening computed tomography for lung cancer was performed annually on 1520 participants. All participants were at least 50 years old and smoked more than 20 pack/y. We found 3130 indeterminate pulmonary nodules in 1112 participants (73%). Fifty-five participants (3.6%) underwent 60 thoracic operations for a variety of indications. The medical records of these 55 patients were reviewed. Results Indications for operation included suspicious pulmonary nodules, mediastinal adenopathy, and a spontaneous pneumothorax. Operations performed included a lobectomy in 37 cases, wedge resection in 11, segmentectomy in 6, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgical talc pleurodesis in 1, bilobectomy in 2, mediastinoscopy in 2, and anterior mediastinotomy in 1. Benign disease was found in 10 patients (18.1%), and lung cancer was found in 45 (81.9%), 2 of whom had metachronous lung cancers. Cell types were adenocarcinoma in 15 cancers, bronchioloalveolar cell carcinoma in 13, squamous cell in 13, carcinoid in 2, small cell in 2, and large cell and undifferentiated non-small cell in 1 case each. Twenty-eight cancers were classified as stage IA, 4 as IB, 4 as IIA, 1 as IIB, 4 as IIIA, 3 as IIIB, 1 as IV, and 2 as limited small cell carcinoma. Complications occurred in 27% of patients. Operative mortality was 1.7%. Conclusion Computed tomographic screening finds a large number of indeterminate pulmonary nodules in smokers 50 years old or older, most of which are observed and not operated on. Although 47 cancers were detected thus far in this highly selected group of patients, this represents only 1.5% of the pulmonary nodules identified.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine