There are a lot of chest x-rays that show abnormalities. But the only way to know if the abnormality means lung cancer has been to perform an invasive and sometimes life threatening biopsy.
Martin Tammemagi, associate professor, Community Health Sciences, and a team of U.S. researchers have found a way to better pinpoint when an abnormal chest X-ray means cancer. They studied the chest radiographs of 12,314 people and found 14 factors that help determine whether to proceed with a biopsy.
“There are a lot of false positives where X-rays show shadows and nodules that look like they might be cancer, but in most cases, it’s not,” Tammemagi said.
“This will allow the patient and clinician to get a sense of the true probability of an abnormal chest X-ray being lung cancer.”
The factors determined by Tammemagi were “highly accurate in predicting who had lung cancer and who didn’t.” They included older age, lower education levels and a longer smoking history.
When high-risk factors are not present, Tammemagi said, physicians and patients can keep watch through regular scans.
Needle biopsies to check for lung cancer can on rare occasions lead to hemorrhaging and death, Tammemagi said.
The work was an ancillary study of the larger National Cancer Institute’s Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial, a large-scale trial of 155,000 participants that Tammemagi joined in 1998.
The recent study regarding abnormal chest X-rays, published in the June issue of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, was conducted in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, Georgetown University and the University of Minnesota.
Tammemagi is now working on developing a general lung cancer risk prediction rate model.