COLUMBIA, S.C., June 13 (UPI) -- Some high-risk patients may not be screened for lung cancer despite recommendations because their doctors are unaware of the benefits, according to a recent study.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina found many doctors who participated in a survey fail to screen high-risk patients, such as those who smoke or used to smoke, which may be missing cases of lung cancer.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends all adults between the age of 55 and 80 who have a 30-pack per year smoking history, and currently smoke or have quit in the previous 15 years, be screened using low-dose computed tomography scanning.
Although some medical groups question whether there is a enough proof that LDCT screening is effective, previous studies have suggested it is the best way to detect smaller tumors and abnormalities because of the type of 3D images it produces.
"Education is needed to bridge these knowledge gaps and lay a foundation on which physicians can base their treatment recommendations," Dr. Jan Eberth, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of South Carolina, said in a press release.
For the study, published in the journal Cancer, researchers distributed a 32-question survey to members of the South Carolina Academy of Family Physicians in 2015, receiving responses from 101 members.
The researchers found that while 98 percent of doctors said LDCT screening makes it more likely disease is caught earlier, just 41 percent said it reduced lung cancer-related death.
Of the doctors who responded, 75 percent thought the benefits of scanning outweighed risk, but 88 percent were worried about conducting unnecessary procedures, 52 percent worried about patient stress and anxiety, and 50 percent were concerned about radiation exposure. Additionally, 12 percent said they would not recommend screening at all, and 9 percent would do a chest X-ray despite a lack of evidence it detects anything in people at high risk for lung cancer.
"With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now offering reimbursement to primary care providers to engage in shared decision making with their patients about lung cancer screening, it is vital that providers have an accurate understanding of the eligibility criteria for screening and potential risks and benefits," Ebert said. "Decision aids may be a useful tool to facilitate these treatment discussions."