Skip to Content


Answers for Long-Term Smokers

Conquest - Fall 2011

CT Scanning May Reduce Lung Cancer Deaths

By Katrina Burton

Hope is on the horizon for current and former smokers with findings that CT scanning may reduce lung cancer deaths by 20%.

Ramon Yapp, CT technician (right), prepares Mary
Geary for a lung screening — a new offering for 
current and former smokers, led by Reginald 
Munden, M.D. (center).
Photo: F. Carter Smith

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), funded by the National Cancer Institute, compared the results of screening with the standard chest X-ray to the low-dose helical CT scan in 53,000 participants.

MD Anderson was one of 33 sites that participated in the NLST and recruited more than 700 participants.

“In the past, chest X-rays were our only option for diagnosing lung cancer, but they didn’t detect the cancer until it was too late to treat it,” says Reginald Munden, M.D., professor in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology and MD Anderson’s lead investigator on the trial. “The results bring hope not only to smokers, but also to researchers and health care providers.”

‘Everything to gain’

In response to the findings and its leadership role in the trial, MD Anderson has launched a lung cancer screening program. It targets current and former smokers 50 years and older who have smoked an equivalent of one pack of cigarettes a day for at least 20 years.

Former smoker Mary Geary wasted no time in getting screened at MD Anderson. The $400 out-of-pocket cost didn’t deter her.

“I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from being screened,” says Geary, who hasn’t smoked in 30 years, but realizes her 20-year history with tobacco put her at a high risk for developing lung cancer.

MD Anderson’s program was developed to help prevent lung cancer deaths by using CT scans to more effectively detect lung cancer in its earliest stages. It incorporates a multidisciplinary team of experts in radiology, thoracic surgery, pulmonary and clinical cancer prevention.

Smoking cessation services

Another benefit of the program is low-cost, smoking cessation services offered in the Cancer Prevention Center. 

Therese Bevers, M.D., is medical director of the center and co-investigator on the national trial. She hopes that people meeting the criteria follow the recommended guidelines for lung cancer screening and take advantage of the tobacco cessation programs.

The good news for Geary was an all-clear signal. Her lungs showed no sign of cancer, and she could breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Learn more about screening

For more information about lung cancer screening, visit the Cancer Prevention Center website. To schedule an appointment, contact askMDAnderson at 877-632-6789.

Reported in the June 29, 2011, edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Care to Comment?

Email the editor to comment on a story or offer suggestions on topics you'd like to see covered in future issues of Conquest and Annual Report.

Make a difference

Your gift to MD Anderson makes a difference in the lives of cancer patients by supporting innovative patient care, research, education and prevention programs. You can Donate Now or learn more at myGiving to MD Anderson.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center