From the Journals

COPD adds complexity to shared decision making for LDCT lung cancer screening



Shared decision making around low-dose computed tomography screening for lung cancer should include risk and benefit information for baseline conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), research suggests.

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Jonathan M. Iaccarino, MD, of the pulmonary center at the Boston University, and coauthors reported the results of a secondary analysis of patient-level outcomes from 75,138 low-dose CT (LDCT) scans in 26,453 participants in the National Lung Screening Trial (Chest 2019 Jul 5. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2019.06.016).

Currently, LDCT screening is recommended annually for high-risk smokers aged 55-80 years. The National Lung Screening Trial showed that this screening achieved a 20% relative reduction in lung cancer mortality and 6.7% relative reduction in overall mortality in this group. The guidelines stress the importance of shared decision making, with discussion of the risks and benefits of screening.

Dr. Iaccarino and colleagues point out that decision aids for shared decision making need to include important baseline characteristics, such as the presence of COPD, as these can complicate the risk and benefit analysis.

In this study, they found that 14.2% of LDCT scans performed led to a subsequent diagnostic study and 1.5% resulted in an invasive procedure. In addition, 0.3% of scans resulted in a procedure-related complication, and in 89 cases (0.1%), this procedure-related complication was serious.

At the patient level, nearly one-third (30.5%) received a diagnostic study, 4.2% underwent an invasive procedure – 41% of whom ultimately were found not to have lung cancer – 0.9% had a procedure-related complication, and 0.3% had a serious procedure related complication. Furthermore, among those who experienced a serious complication, 12.5% were found not to have lung cancer.

“Our study analyzes cumulative outcomes at the level of the individual patient over the three years of LDCT screening during the NLST, showing higher rates of diagnostic procedures, invasive procedures, complications and serious complications than apparent when data is presented at the level of the individual test,” the authors wrote.

The 4,632 participants with COPD were significantly more likely to undergo diagnostic studies (36.2%), have an invasive procedure (6%), experience a procedure-related complication (1.5%) and experience a serious procedure-related complication (0.6%) than were participants without COPD. However, they also had a significantly higher incidence of lung cancer diagnosis than did participants without COPD (6.1% vs. 3.6%).

“While most decision aids note the risks of screening may be increased in those with COPD, our study helps quantify these increased risks as well as the increased likelihood of a lung cancer diagnosis, a critical advance given that providing personalized (rather than generic) information results in more accurate risk perception and more informed choices among individuals considering screening,” the authors wrote. “With the significant change in the balance of benefits and risks of screening in patients with COPD, it is critical to adjust the shared decision-making discussions accordingly.”

They also noted that other comorbidities, such as heart disease, vascular disease, and other lung diseases, would likely affect the balance of risk and benefit of LDCT screening, and that there was a need for further exploration of screening in these patients.

Noting the study’s limitations, the authors pointed that their analysis focused on outcomes that were not the primary outcomes of the National Lung Screening trial, and that they relied on self-reported COPD diagnoses.

The study was supported by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Charles A. King Trust, and Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital. No conflicts of interest were declared.

SOURCE: Iaccarino JM et al. CHEST 2019 Jul 5. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2019.06.016.

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