I like the work of the website called TheNNT.com because its analysis of the number needed to treat (or to screen) could be a good resource for journalists as they struggle to tell these stories. Here is the graphic TheNNT.com just published from its analysis of the lung cancer CT screening data.
The report of The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) Research Team – with the conclusion that “Screening with the use of low-dose CT reduces mortality from lung cancer” has now been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It’s accompanied by an editorial by Dartmouth’s Dr. Hal Sox, that reads in part:
“Individual patients at high risk for lung cancer who seek low-dose CT screening and their primary care physicians should inform themselves fully, and current smokers should also receive redoubled assistance in their attempts to quit smoking. They should know the number of patients needed to screen to avoid one lung-cancer death, the limited amount of information that can be gained from one screening test, the potential for overdiagnosis and other harms, and the reduction in the risk of lung cancer after smoking cessation. The NLST investigators report newly proven benefits to balance against harms and costs, so that physicians and patients can now have much better information than before on which to base their discussions about lung-cancer screening.
The findings of the NLST regarding lung-cancer mortality signal the beginning of the end of one era of research on lung-cancer screening and the start of another. The focus will shift to informing the difficult patient-centered and policy decisions that are yet to come.”