The introduction of a national lung cancer screening program announced by federal Minister for Health Mark Butler today could be a gamechanger for cancer outcomes, according to the Daffodil Centre, a cancer research joint venture between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney.
Daffodil Centre Director, Professor Karen Canfell, said Minister Butler’s announcement positioned Australia to become a global leader in lung cancer screening, as it was in population screening for cancers of the bowel, breast and cervix.
“The greatest gains in lives saved in cancers of the bowel, breast and cervix in Australia over the past 20 years have been driven by early detection, delivered through screening. Lung cancer screening, targeted to those at high risk, could save thousands more lives,” Professor Canfell said.
Independent Daffodil Centre economic analysis was factored into Australia’s Medical Services Advisory Committee’s revised recommendation in 2022 to support a national program, which informed the decision made by Minister Butler today.
A/Professor Marianne Weber, whose team led the analysis, said lung cancer caused the most cancer deaths and the widest gap in survival outcomes between stages one and four at diagnosis of any common cancer in Australia.
“Five-year survival at stage one is around 70% while stage-four survival is below 5%,” A/Professor Weber said. “Yet only around 12% of cases are diagnosed at stage one.
“Clinical trials have shown that screening can save lives in significant numbers through earlier diagnosis. Evidence we published last year showed that lung cancer screening would also be cost-effective, within the range of what governments will usually pay for cancer screening.”
Professor Canfell commended Minister Butler and the team from Cancer Australia, the Australian Government’s national cancer control agency, which had led a successful enquiry into the prospective program’s feasibility.
“Introducing a new cancer screening program, based on the evidence and informed by extensive consultation, is big news in cancer control – especially in the case of lung cancer, which will cause almost one in five cancer deaths in Australia this year on current trends.
“This is a great day for cancer policy and practice in Australia and a great example of government leadership and independent cancer research coming together to deliver advances in policy and practice.”