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Cost-Benefit Analysis

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A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine — outlined here in this week's Cancer Minute NEJM roundup — shows that routine screening with low-dose computed tomography is associated with lower lung cancer mortality. But the cost of the test is likely to set off a debate about how an already "overburdened" healthcare system can afford the cost of additional screening on thousands of people a year, says Reuters' Bill Berkrot. While the study showed that low-dose CT screening could reduce lung cancer mortality by 20 percent, it also showed a high rate of false-positive results, Berkrot says. And while study results also show that roughly 300 people would have to be screened in order for one person to be saved, cancer experts say the study's results suggests that low-dose CT screening should become the standard of care for high-risk patients. But doctors are facing "an uphill battle to convince government programs and health insurers to pay for routine testing of millions of people," Berkrot says, even as officials search for ways to keep costs down. But while researchers agree that implementing screening in a broad population is expensive, they also say it's worth it to save lives.