Lung cancer screening implementation: Complexities and priorities

Nicole M. Rankin, Annette McWilliams, Henry M. Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer death worldwide. The benefits of lung cancer screening to reduce mortality and detect early-stage disease are no longer in any doubt based on the results of two landmark trials using LDCT. Lung cancer screening has been implemented in the US and South Korea and is under consideration by other communities. Successful translation of demonstrated research outcomes into the routine clinical setting requires careful implementation and co-ordinated input from multiple stakeholders. Implementation aspects may be specific to different healthcare settings. Important knowledge gaps remain, which must be addressed in order to optimize screening benefits and minimize screening harms. Lung cancer screening differs from all other cancer screening programmes as lung cancer risk is driven by smoking, a highly stigmatized behaviour. Stigma, along with other factors, can impact smokers' engagement with screening, meaning that smokers are generally ‘hard to reach’. This review considers critical points along the patient journey. The first steps include selecting a risk threshold at which to screen, successfully engaging the target population and maximizing screening uptake. We review barriers to smoker engagement in lung and other cancer screening programmes. Recruitment strategies used in trials and real-world (clinical) programmes and associated screening uptake are reviewed. To aid cross-study comparisons, we propose a standardized nomenclature for recording and calculating recruitment outcomes. Once participants have engaged with the screening programme, we discuss programme components that are critical to maximize net benefit. A whole-of-programme approach is required including a standardized and multidisciplinary approach to pulmonary nodule management, incorporating probabilistic nodule risk assessment and longitudinal volumetric analysis, to reduce unnecessary downstream investigations and surgery; the integration of smoking cessation; and identification and intervention for other tobacco related diseases, such as coronary artery calcification and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. National support, integrated with tobacco control programmes, and with appropriate funding, accreditation, data collection, quality assurance and reporting mechanisms will enhance lung cancer screening programme success and reduce the risks associated with opportunistic, ad hoc screening. Finally, implementation research must play a greater role in informing policy change about targeted LDCT screening programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
Issue numberS2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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