CT screening for lung cancer: comparison of three baseline screening protocols

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Purpose: Clinical management decisions arising from the baseline round for lung cancer screening are the most challenging, as findings have accumulated over a lifetime and may be of no clinical concern. To minimize unnecessary harms and costs of workup prior to the first, annual repeat screening, workup should be limited to participants with the highest suspicion of lung cancer while still aiming to identify small, early lung cancers. Methods: We compared recommendations for immediate, delayed (by 3 or 6 months) workup to assess growth at a malignant rate, and the resulting overall and potential biopsies of three baseline screening protocols: I-ELCAP, the two scenarios of ACR-LungRADS, and the European Consortium. For each protocol, the efficiency ratio (ER) of each recommendation was calculated by dividing the number of participants recommended for that workup by the number of resulting lung cancer diagnoses. The ER for potential biopsies was calculated, assuming that biopsies were performed on all participants recommended for immediate workup as well as those diagnosed with lung cancer after delayed workup. Results: For I-ELCAP, ACR-LungRADS Scenario 1, ACR-LungRADS Scenario 2, and the European consortium, the overall ER was 13.9, 18.3, 18.3, and 31.9, respectively, and for potential biopsies, it was 2.2, 8.1, 3.2, and 4.4, respectively. ER for immediate workup was 2.9, 8.6, 3.9, and 5.6, respectively, and for delayed workup was 36.1, 160.3, 57.8, and 111.9, respectively. Conclusions: I-ELCAP recommendations had the lowest ER values for overall, immediate, and delayed workup, and for potential biopsies. Key Points: • Small differences in protocol thresholds can lead to many unnecessary diagnostic workups. • I-ELCAP recommendations were the most efficient for immediate and overall workup, and potential biopsies. • Definition of a “positive result” and recommendations for further workup in the baseline round needs to be continually reevaluated and updated.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)5217-5226
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Cancer screening
  • Clinical protocols
  • Lung neoplasms
  • Spiral computed
  • Tomography

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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