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Washington, DC [February 17, 2011] -- Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) hailed four key veterans organizations that called yesterday for pilot CT screening programs for veterans at high risk for lung cancer and included the recommendation in the Independent Budget - an annual document listing their top priorities for federal funding.
LCA’s Chairman of the Board Admiral T. Joseph Lopez USN (Ret) called this “a responsible and timely action.”
The Independent Budget for Fiscal Year 2012, released yesterday by AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars, included a section on the impact of lung cancer and urged that the VA set up pilot programs that would offer CT screening to veterans at high risk for lung cancer.
“We’ve known for years that our veterans are being diagnosed and dying of lung cancer at higher rates than civilians,” said Admiral Lopez.
“Now that the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) has confirmed that CT screening can save tens of thousands of lives a year, I would urge the Veterans Administration to act expeditiously on the recommendation of our top veterans organizations to bring this benefit to the men and women who have served their country,” he said.
Lung cancer has a disproportionate impact on veterans, who have historically had higher smoking rates than civilians, and have been exposed during active duty to carcinogens, such as Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, asbestos on ships and submarines and depleted uranium in weapons and tanks during the Gulf War.
The leading cancer killer, lung cancer accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths, and takes more lives each year than the next four biggest cancers - breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers - combined.
The long-standing debate over screening was resolved last November when the NLST, an eight year randomized controlled trial with 53,000 participants, demonstrated that CT scanners could find lung cancer at an early curable stage and reduce lung cancer deaths by at least 20% over chest x-rays.
By contrast, the overall mortality reduction of mammography screening on breast cancer is 15%.
Subsequent analyses of data collected in other NCI studies indicate that the mortality reduction of CT screening for lung cancer compared to no screening at all may be over 60%.
“The debate is over,” said Admiral Lopez. “CT screening does save lives.”
Detecting and treating lung cancer at early stage is far less expensive than late stage, he pointed out, and added: "Screening not only saves lives and money but enables those treated and cured to continue to lead productive lives."
"Pilot screening programs should be implemented immediately so this benefit is delivered to our veterans safely, effectively and efficiently.” Admiral Lopez concluded.
Research into CT screening for lung cancer was initiated in 1992 by the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP) which over the years has incorporated imaging advances as they occur and developed the most robust and accurate method for reading the scans and diagnosing lung cancer.
National and international researchers using the I-ELCAP protocol are seeing ten year survival rates of nearly 80%.
Lung cancer rarely shows definitive symptoms until the disease has progressed to a late, inoperable stage, and until now, screening has not been recommended, even for people at very high risk.
Consequently the five year survival rate for lung cancer is still only 15%
Lung Cancer Alliance is the only national non-profit organization devoted solely to support and advocacy for all those living with or at risk for lung cancer. Lung Cancer Alliance is committed to leading the movement to reverse decades of stigma and neglect by empowering those with or at risk for the disease, elevating awareness and changing health policy.
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