Burning Issue: Why Opportunistic Screening for Lung Cancer is the need of the hour

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'Cancer Cures Smoking'

Did the above line make you look twice and think thrice? Years ago, the Cancer Patients Aid Association published this thought-provoking message, a genuinely fresh view on the relationship between tobacco and cancer. And why not?

Extensive research from across the world indicates that cigarette smoking can explain almost 90% of lung cancer risk in men and 70 to 80% in women. The WHO lists tobacco use as the first risk factor for cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund International goes a step further and plainly calls out smoking. With lung cancer racking up 2.21 million cases in 2021 and 1.8 million deaths, one can understand why healthcare stakeholders want to focus efforts on targeting common causes and reducing incidents of the disease.

Yet, a recent study indicates troubling trends.

Medanta Hospital is one of India’s leading medical facilities. Their research on lung cancer prevalence, conducted over a decade between 2012 – 2022 amongst 304 patients threw up a startling statistic – 50% of their lung cancer patient cohort were non-smokers. According to the doctors who conducted the research, Dr Arvind Kumar, Dr. Belal Bin Asaf and Dr. Harsh Puri, this was a sharp rise from earlier figures for non-smoking lung cancer patients (10-20%). But, there’s more.

The study indicates that, be it smokers or non-smokers, the risk group for lung cancer has expanded to a relatively more youthful population.

The WHO previously flagged a key factor for the rising trend in young, non-smokers being at risk for lung diseases – air pollution. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called air pollution a ‘silent public health emergency’ and ‘the new tobacco’. It presents clinicians working to treat and prevent lung cancer with a new conundrum – evaluating risk factors for the disease.

Simply put, how does one tackle the risk of lung cancer in a 25-year-old, non-smoking individual living a reasonably healthy lifestyle when a risk factor could be the simple act of breathing?

According to Dr. Matthew Lungren, the answer could be Opportunistic Screening – which he calls, “… the BEST use case for AI in radiology”

Qure.ai concurs. qXR, our artificial intelligence (AI) solution for chest X-rays, has been tried, tested and trusted to assist in identifying and reporting missing nodules, which highlights the importance of opportunistic screening for identifying potential lung cancers early.

All our recent studies, including the one with Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in a retrospective multi-center study, investigated and concluded that Qure’s CE approved qXR could identify critical findings on Chest X-Rays, including malignant nodules.  This spurs the possibility that opportunistic screening for indicators of lung cancer and other pulmonary diseases should become the norm.

Qure.ai’s solutions, can truly make the difference, augmenting the efforts of clinicians and radiologists any and every time a Chest X-ray or Chest CT is conducted.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. What better moment than the last day of the month to urge everyone to think outside the box when it comes to demographics, risk factors, screening, and the role of AI in healthcare.

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