Early Stage Lung Cancer Has 80% Survival Rate over 20 years

Early Stage Lung Cancer Has 80% Survival Rate over 20 years

Results from a study of patients enrolled in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program (I-ELCAP) were presented at the 2022 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting. The study was led by Claudia Henschke, MD, PhD, of Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

She and her study members tracked the survival rates of 1,285 patients enrolled in the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program. I-ELCAP is an international, collaborative group of experts worldwide on lung cancer and related issues. Their mission statement is to enhance early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer to find a cure through early dissemination and advancement of research among a diversified, collaborative network. The program began in 1992.

The key result of their study is an overall 20-year survival rate of 80% for patients diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, with diagnosis-specific results including:

  • A 100% survival rate among 139 patients with non-solid cancerous lung nodules and 155 patients with part-solid nodules
  • A 92% survival rate for Stage 1A lung cancer patients whose nodules measured less than 10 millimeters
  • A 73% survival rate among the 991 study members with early-stage solid nodules

Henschke’s study added depth and confirmation from a 2006 I-ELCAP study showing a 10-year survival rate of 88% for early-stage disease found on LDCT screening. She noted that LDCT screening only uses about 10% of the radiation used in most mammograms.

Only 5.8% of those eligible for low-dose CT lung cancer screening have been screened, according to the American Lung Association’s 5th annual “State of Lung Cancer” report. RSNA postulates in a news release sent out before their meeting that the low screening rate among those eligible is probably responsible for only 16% of lung cancers being diagnosed at the earlier stage and that the average 5-year survival rate for all lung cancer patients is just 18.6%.

There are multiple reasons for the low rates of LDCT screenings, but three stand out as significant influencers to delay or not participate in LDCT screenings:

  1. Fear of getting a diagnosis of lung cancer
  2. The stigma associated with smoking as a poor lifestyle choice
  3. Lung cancer’s average diagnosis age is 70, a time in life when current and former smokers may have a fatalist attitude

The researchers are hopeful that more people eligible for LDCT lung cancer screening will avail themselves of lung cancer screenings in the same manner that women have embraced mammography. Henschke directs the Early Lung and Cardiac Action Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She hopes that the results of this study will help dispel the widely-held belief that once lung cancer is diagnosed that it’s too late to do anything about it or that the treatment is too harsh to endure.

She observes, “We are now finding new surgical and radiation treatments far less invasive than major lung surgeries. And we now have the proof that lung-cancer specific survival of 20 years or more is possible for the vast majority of patients.”