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Recent studies have suggested that heavy smokers exposed to low-dose CT scans lessen their risk to lung cancer deaths by 20%. The National Lung Screening Trial has been studying smokers since 2002 and their findings today suggest that low-dose helical computed tomography can help reduce lung cancer mortality.

In the United States, approximately 94 million are at risk of the disease. When symptoms of lung cancer begin to manifest on individuals, they are often diagnosed to be in the later stage of the disease and treatment usually becomes too late.

In the study, doctors were able to prove that patients who are exposed to low-dose CT scan annually have better chances of survival compared to those who only underwent chest X-ray procedures. Early detection of tumors in CT scans is the main reason why lung cancer deaths are decreased by 20%.

In a helical CT, the process makes use X-rays showing many angles of a patient's chest as a whole, while a regular chest X-ray only shows a single image of the chest which often fails to identify tumors at the early stages of the illness.

In an AFP report, Constantine Gatsonis, a statistician and chair of biostatistics at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School, says that results of the study could open the doors of LDCT for lung cancer patients to decrease deaths related to the disease.

"For the first time, we have a study that says, 'Yes, you can actually reduce lung cancer mortality in heavy smokers via screening.' This is tremendous," Gatsonis adds.

Complete results of the study are published in the online edition of New England Journal of Medicine where the relationship between CT scans and lung cancer mortality rates are further explained. The study could greatly impact the emotional and physical state of lung cancer patients.