Women screened for breast cancer are dying from lung cancer: An opportunity to improve lung cancer screening in a mammography population.


Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in women, resulting in more deaths than breast, cervical and ovarian cancer combined. Screening for lung cancer has been shown to significantly reduce mortality, with some evidence that women may have a greater benefit. This study demonstrates that a population of women being screened for breast cancer may greatly benefit from screening for lung cancer.

Data from 18,040 women who were screened for breast cancer in 2015 at two imaging facilities that also performed lung screening were reviewed. A natural language-processing algorithm followed by a manual chart review identified women eligible for lung cancer screening by U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) criteria. A chart review of these eligible women was performed to determine subsequent enrollment in a lung screening program (2016-2019), current screening eligibility, cancer diagnoses and cancer-related outcomes.

Natural language processing identified 685 women undergoing screening mammography who were also potentially eligible for lung screening based on age and smoking history. Manual chart review confirmed 251 were eligible under USPSTF criteria. By June 2019, 63 (25%) had enrolled in lung screening, of which three were diagnosed with screening-detected lung cancer resulting in zero deaths. Of 188 not screened, seven were diagnosed with lung cancer resulting in five deaths by study end. Four women received a diagnosis of breast cancer with no deaths.

Women screened for breast cancer are dying from lung cancer. We must capitalize on reducing barriers to improve screening for lung cancer among high-risk women.

  • Deppen SA
  • Haddad DN
  • Osterman TJ
  • Paulson AB
  • Poulos EA
  • Sandler KL
  • Scott CC
PubMed ID
Appears In
J Med Screen, 2021, 28 (4)