Mass Lung Cancer Screening Starts in Scotland

Thousands of smokers in Scotland, which has one of the highest lung cancer rates in the world, will soon undergo blood tests that could identify early-stage lung cancer.  The trial project is part of the Scottish government's Detect Cancer Early program.

The test determines the levels of certain antibodies in the blood, which may increase when lung cancer develops.  People with elevated antibody levels will be sent for a CT scan to determine whether they have cancer.

According to the Scottish government's web site, around 10,000 smokers identified as being at higher risk for lung cancer will participate in the screening project.

There are nearly 5,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer in Scotland every year, twice the rate of the entire United Kingdom, said Scotland's health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon.

"If the disease is diagnosed early patients have a 60 percent chance of survival, but if the cancer is well advanced the survival rate drops to just one percent," Sturgeon said.

Officials say the goal of the Detect Cancer Early program is to increase the rate of early cancer detection by 25 percent.

Dr. Edgardo Santos, associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center said while it's unclear whether the screening program will be successful, he applauds the Scottish government's effort.

"We don't currently have any standard blood screening for cancer.  There are a lot of things we do in terms of screening for lung cancer - like getting images of the lungs to see if there's cancer or using exhaled gas analysis - but nothing has really been very efficacious so far," he said.  "Lung cancer has a very high cancer mortality rate and screening has tremendous value, but it's very difficult to get effective tests developed."

Blood testing will start later this year and continue over the next four years across Scotland.

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