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Many lung cancer tumours prove harmless

11 December, 2013

NEW YORK: A provocative study found that nearly 1 in 5 lung tumours detected on CT scans are probably so slow-growing that they would never cause problems.

These were not false-positives suspicious results that turn out upon further testing not to be lung cancer, the world's No. 1 cause of cancer deaths. These were indeed cancerous tumours, but ones that caused no symptoms and were unlikely ever to become deadly, the researchers said. Still, the results are not likely to change how doctors treat lung cancer.

For one thing, the disease is usually diagnosed after symptoms develop, when tumours show up on an ordinary chest X-ray and are potentially life-threatening.Also, doctors don't know yet how to determine which symptomless tumours found on CT scans might become dangerous, so they automatically treat the cancer aggressively.

The findings underscore the need to identify biological markers that would help doctors determine which tumours are harmless and which ones require treatment, said Dr. Edward Patz, Jr., lead author and a radiologist at Duke University Medical Centre. He is among researchers working to do just that. A leader of an influential government-appointed health panel agreed.

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