Feasibility of lung cancer screening in developing countries: challenges, opportunities and way forward
Lung cancer is the leading cause of all cancer deaths worldwide, comprising 18.4% of all cancer deaths. Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) has shown mortality benefit in various trials and now a standard tool for lung cancer screening. Most researches have been carried out in developed countries where lung cancer incidence and mortality is very high. There is an increasing trend in lung cancer incidence in developing countries attributed to tobacco smoking and various environmental and occupational risk factors. Implementation of lung cancer screening is challenging, so organised lung cancer screening is practically non-existent. There are numerous challenges in implementing such programs ranging from infrastructure, trained human resources, referral algorithm to cost and psychological trauma due to over-diagnosis. Pulmonary tuberculosis and other chest infections are important issues to be addressed while planning for lung cancer screening in developing countries. Burden of these diseases is very high and can lead to over-diagnosis in view of cut off of lung nodule size in various studies. Assessment of high risk cases for lung cancer is difficult as various forms of smoking make quantification non-uniform and difficult. Lung cancer screening targets only high risk population unlike screening programs for other cancers where entire population is targeted. There is a need of lung cancer screening for high risk cases as it saves life. Tobacco control and smoking cessation remain the most important long term intervention to decrease morbidity and mortality from lung cancer in developing countries. There is no sufficient evidence supporting the introduction of population-based screening for lung cancer in public health services.