Lung Cancer Screening Prevention Policy
Key policy priorities in summary
- Develop and implement a sustainable, evidence-based targeted risk-based National Lung Cancer Screening Program in Australia in a timely manner, accounting for lessons learnt from existing National Screening Programs in Australia.
- Embed evidence-based tobacco dependence treatment within the National Lung Cancer Screening Program, and ensure it is offered to every tobacco user in every interaction with the health system, whilst minimising the potential for stigma.
- Ensure that the National Lung Cancer Screening Program is culturally safe and is acceptable and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, individuals in lower socio-economic groups, and those living in rural and remote communities.
Lung cancer is Australia’s deadliest cancer, being the leading cause of cancer death, responsible for almost one in five cancer deaths. (1) It is also the fifth most common cancer diagnosed (excluding non-melanoma cancers). Rates of lung cancer have increased from 5,948 registered cases diagnosed in 1982, to 12,585 new cases in 2017. (2)
It is well established that smoking contributes significantly to the lung cancer burden in Australia, with lung cancers accounting for 65% of the cancer burden from tobacco use in Australia in 2018. (1) As such, tobacco control in Australia is a significant priority for Cancer Council. For more information on the health issues regarding tobacco use, and Cancer Council’s policy priorities on this topic, see the chapter of the National Cancer Prevention Policy on tobacco control. However, it is important to acknowledge that whilst tobacco is the leading cause of lung cancer, there are other risk factors which have been linked to lung cancer, even in never smokers, including second-hand smoke, exposure to radon and asbestos, and a family history. (3, 4)
Despite the high incidence and mortality of lung cancer in Australia, there is not currently a population-based screening program in place for the early detection of lung cancer, however, the Australian Government has committed funding to the implementation of a program. This chapter discusses the impact of lung cancer in the Australian population, the current International evidence around lung cancer screening, the policy context that exists in Australia, and its influence on the implementation of a population-based screening program.
For information and support following a lung cancer diagnosis, please visit the lung cancer webpage or call 13 11 20, for free, confidential support available in each state and territory.
For further information about lung cancer care and treatment, please visit the Optimal Care Pathway for people with lung cancer.
1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer in Australia 2021. Canberra: AIHW; 2021
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer data in Australia Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; 2022 [Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/cancer/cancer-data-in-australia.
3. Yang P. Lung Cancer in Never Smokers. Seminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2011;32(01):010-21.
4. Cancer Council Australia. Understanding Lung Cancer - a guide for people with cancer, their families and friends. Sydney: Cancer Council Australia; 2020.