Minimal-dose computed tomography is superior to chest x-ray for the follow-up and treatment of patients with resected lung cancer
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OBJECTIVES: A minimal-dose computed tomography scan of the thorax (MnDCT) delivers a radiation dose comparable with a chest x-ray (CXR). We hypothesized that in patients with completely resected lung cancer, surveillance with MnDCT, when compared with CXR, leads to earlier detection and a higher rate of treatment of new or recurrent lung cancer. METHODS: After lung cancer resection, patients prospectively were enrolled for surveillance with MnDCT and CXR at 3, 6, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 60 months. Images were interpreted by different blinded radiologists. When new or recurrent cancer was suspected, standard-dose CT and/or a tissue biopsy were performed for confirmation. RESULTS: Between 2007 and 2012, 271 patients were included and 1137 pairs of CXR and MnDCT were analyzed. MnDCT was more sensitive (94% vs 21%; P < .0001) and had a higher negative predictive value (99% vs 96%; P = .007) than CXR for the diagnosis of new or recurrent lung cancer. The prevalence of new or recurrent lung cancer was 23.2% (63 of 271), of whom 78% (49 of 63) had asymptomatic disease. The majority of asymptomatic patients (75%; 37 of 49) were treated with curative intent and had a median survival of 69 months. The remainder of patients received palliative treatment (24%; 12 of 49) and had a median survival of 25 months (P < .0001). CONCLUSIONS: After curative resection of lung cancer, MnDCT is superior to CXR for the detection of new or recurrent lung cancer. The majority of new or recurrent cancer was detected by MnDCT at an asymptomatic phase, allowing for curative treatment, leading to a long survival.