MELBOURNE, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Australian smokers will be subjected to regular chest scans in an attempt to uncover cancer at the earliest possible stage, it was announced on Tuesday.
Results of the trial, being run by the Royal Melbourne Hospital, will inform policy-makers on whether a national screening program for lung cancer, which kills more than 8000 Australians every year, is a viable proposition.
People at the highest risk of developing lung cancer, mostly heavy smokers older than 55, will be included in the trial whereby they will undergo regular computer topography (CT) scans.
Heather Allen, chief executive of the Lung Foundation Australia, said screening presented the best opportunity to reduce lung cancer deaths.
"There is an urgent need and an important opportunity for the government to rapidly implement an appropriate screening program in Australia that works within our healthcare setting," Allen told Australian media on Tuesday.
Fewer than 14 percent of the 10,000 Australians diagnosed with lung cancer every year are alive five years after their diagnosis.
"The cure rate is very low because 75 percent of lung cancers have already spread by the time they are detected," Lou Irving, an associate professor at the Royal Melbourne
"This is partly because the lungs don't have any pain fibres within them, so the cancer can grow quite large in your lungs and spread before you even know that you have it."
"If you can pick it up when it is the size of a peanut there is then the chance to use surgery, which, in very early disease, has a cure rate of 85 percent."
The Cancer Council of Victoria said that while it was not optimistic about the prospect of using screening to find cancer early they welcomed further research.