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Diagnosis and Management of Lung Cancer, 3rd ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines |

Executive SummaryExecutive Summary: Diagnosis and Management of Lung Cancer, 3rd ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines FREE TO VIEW

Frank C. Detterbeck, MD, FCCP; Sandra Zelman Lewis, PhD; Rebecca Diekemper, MPH; Doreen Addrizzo-Harris, MD, FCCP; W. Michael Alberts, MD, MBA, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

From the Department of Thoracic Surgery (Dr Detterbeck), Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT; the American College of Chest Physicians (Dr Lewis and Ms Diekemper), Northbrook, IL; the Pulmonary Division (Dr Addrizzo-Harris), New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY; and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center (Dr Alberts), Tampa, FL.

Correspondence to: Frank C. Detterbeck, MD, FCCP, Yale University School of Medicine, 330 Cedar St, PO Box 208062, New Haven, CT 06520-8062; e-mail: frank.detterbeck@yale.edu


Funding/Sponsors: The development of this guideline was supported primarily by the American College of Chest Physicians. The lung cancer guidelines conference was supported in part by a grant from the Lung Cancer Research Foundation. The publication and dissemination of the guidelines was supported in part by a 2009 independent educational grant from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

COI grids reflecting the conflicts of interest that were current as of the date of the conference and voting are posted in the online supplementary materials.

Disclaimer: American College of Chest Physician guidelines are intended for general information only, are not medical advice, and do not replace professional medical care and physician advice, which always should be sought for any medical condition. The complete disclaimer for this guideline can be accessed at http://dx.doi.org/10.1378/chest.1435S1.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2013;143(5_suppl):7S-37S. doi:10.1378/chest.12-2377
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Lung cancer causes as many deaths as the next four leading causes of cancer deaths combined.1 In the developing world, which has seen a dramatic increase in the rate of smoking, the impending number of deaths from this disease is staggering. Although the incidence and death rate in the United States has been declining since around 2000, lung cancer is projected to remain by far the leading cause of cancer deaths for many decades.

For many years, lung cancer was a relatively neglected disease, shrouded in pessimism and with little research funding. However, many advances have occurred, and it is now a vibrant field with a rapid pace of new information. The explosion of literature makes it difficult for anyone to stay current. With more insight comes the identification of many nuances that are important to correctly understand new studies and choose the optimal treatments for patients. Lung cancer has evolved to where it takes a team of individuals, each with lung cancer expertise within their specialty, to be able to provide the necessary up-to-date knowledge base. The crucial aspect here is not to simply have multiple specialties but to develop a forum for ongoing interaction, so that the individuals think and function as a team, making decisions collectively. Such integration and collaboration allow collective knowledge and judgment to be brought to bear on caring for patients. Even for such a team, however, staying abreast of advances is challenging.

Evidence-based guidelines are intended to make the process of providing up-to-date care easier. The third edition of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) Lung Cancer Guidelines (LC III) is a systematic, extensive, comprehensive review of the literature, a structured interpretation of the data, and practical patient management recommendations. The LC III panelists were selected based on expertise and volunteered an astounding number of hours to carefully and systematically provide the basis for and, finally, produce the guidelines. The result is a product that can be accessed superficially to quickly find guideline statements relevant to a particular clinical issue or more in depth by reviewing the data tables and reading the individual articles. The organized process to produce the guidelines helps to ensure that it is not biased and is representative of the current state of knowledge. The LC III documents represent a distillation of thousands of hours to make the insights more easily accessible to the clinicians on the front lines.

Nevertheless, implementation of the guidelines requires some effort. They cannot provide a simple recipe for treatment. Clinical judgment is needed to assess and balance the many factors that go into clinical decision-making. How well do the patients from whom the data are derived match the patient for whom a management plan is being developed? How strong and consistent are the data, and how heavily should other factors or patient preferences influence the plan? The essence of clinical judgment is being able to weigh the strength of the many factors that each patient brings to decision-making. The LC III guidelines are designed to impart insight into these matters to enhance clinical decision making and not merely present a relatively rigid algorithm.

A difficulty in developing guidelines is that implementation must also be tailored to the local setting. In some countries or institutions, certain tests or procedures may not be available. On a more subtle level, although a test may sometimes be available, one cannot assume that the results in every clinical setting match those of the published literature. The best way to implement guidelines is to thoughtfully tailor them to the local setting. This requires assembling the local team of specialists and critically reviewing the major guideline recommendations and the local strengths and challenges. This allows the development of a locally adapted system of care that can significantly streamline the process of care and ensure that patients are receiving thoughtful care to the highest degree possible in that setting. The LC III guidelines were designed to provide enough details to facilitate such local adaptation in an efficient manner. This executive summary provides a brief synopsis of each article, highlights the major points, and lists the recommendations.

There have been major advances in the clinical science of lung cancer. There have also been major advances in methodologic science. The ACCP has been at the forefront of these advances and is committed to continuing to evolve the process of literature review, data extraction, and guideline development. With the advancement of methodologic techniques, content experts and methodologists must work hand in hand to bring the best each has to offer to bear on the process. Because resources are not unlimited, and practical aspects and logistics present challenges, how to achieve this collaboration was a process that continued to evolve during the development of LC III guidelines. We were fortunate to have the participation of a small but growing number of individuals who have content expertise as well as formal methodology training. For each article, a methodologist was assigned and involved during the process of research and guideline development.

The epidemiology of lung cancer is an active field. Researchers in the area of molecular epidemiology are making advances in the identification of biomarkers of risk and for early detection, although these are not yet mature enough for clinical application.

Cigarette smoking remains the predominant risk factor for lung cancer. A dramatic increase in deaths from lung cancer is anticipated in the developing world, given the current high rate of smoking in these regions. This will have significant social and economic impact.

Although smoking is the major risk factor, a better understanding of the risk of developing lung cancer is needed, particularly with the advent of screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) scanning. This article discusses the risk models that have been developed. Further validation of these models is needed to allow prediction of risk for individual patients. Furthermore, a better understanding of other factors is needed, for example, to address the substantial number of patients who develop lung cancer despite being lifelong nonsmokers.

Much attention has been directed toward identification of particular genetic mutations that can be treated with targeted therapy, resulting in a major palliative benefit for these patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We appear to be poised to reap more far-reaching benefits by using the tools of molecular biology to gain insight into the development of various lung cancers, determinants of progression, and the identification of specific biomarkers. This has the potential to open up doors for early detection, identification of prognostic and predictive markers, and perhaps prevention. This article discusses the state of the art of research in these areas.

The idea of an agent that could prevent the progression to invasive cancer in individuals at high risk is appealing. Unfortunately, despite preliminary data suggesting a possible chemopreventative effect, all of the agents that have been tested in large randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have shown no benefit; some have even turned out to be harmful.

Despite this disappointment, the increasing insight into the fundamental biology of the development of lung cancer provides new opportunities to identify a chemopreventative agent. The field has shifted from large RCTs to smaller studies aimed at achieving a better understanding of the relevant biology and definition of surrogate end points in order to build a solid foundation for future progress.

Summary of Recommendations: Chemoprevention of Lung Cancer

3.1.1.1. For individuals with a greater than 20 pack year history of smoking or with a history of lung cancer, the use of β carotene supplementation is not recommended for primary, secondary, or tertiary chemoprevention of lung cancer (Grade 1A).

Remarks: The dose of β carotene used in these studies was 20-30 mg per day or 50 mg every other day.

3.5.1.1. For individuals at risk for lung cancer and for patients with a history of lung cancer, the use of vitamin E, retinoids, and N-acetylcysteine and isotretinoin is not recommended for primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention of lung cancer (Grade 1A).

3.6.1.1. For individuals at risk for lung cancer and for patients with a history of lung cancer, the use of aspirin is not recommended for primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention of lung cancer (outside of the setting of a well-designed clinical trial) (Grade 1B).

3.7.1.1. In individuals with a history of early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the use of selenium as a tertiary chemopreventive agent of lung cancer is not recommended (Grade 1B).

5.7.1. For individuals at risk for lung cancer or with a history of lung cancer, prostacyclin analogs (iloprost), cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors (celecoxib), and anethole dithiolethione, are not recommended for use for primary, secondary, or tertiary lung cancer chemoprevention (outside of the setting of a well-designed clinical trial) (Grade 1B).

5.7.2. For individuals at risk for lung cancer or with a history of lung cancer, inhaled steroids are not recommended for use for primary, secondary, or tertiary lung cancer chemoprevention (outside of the setting of a well-designed clinical trial) (Grade 1B).

6.7.1. For individuals at risk for lung cancer or with a history of lung cancer, the use of pioglitazone or myoinositol, for primary, secondary, or tertiary lung cancer chemoprevention is not recommended (outside of the setting of a well-designed clinical trial) (Grade 1B).

6.7.2. In individuals at risk for lung cancer, the use of tea extract, or metformin is not suggested for primary, secondary or tertiary prevention of lung cancer (outside of the setting of a well-designed clinical trial) (Grade 2C).

Smoking is a difficult addiction to overcome. However, significant advances have been made in understanding some of the reasons for the seemingly paradoxical situation of patients who have developed lung cancer yet have difficulty giving up smoking. More importantly, not only are there several therapeutic interventions that can assist those trying to stop smoking but there is a fairly sophisticated understanding of which intervention or combination of interventions has the best chance of leading to sustained success. Most clinicians managing patients with lung cancer are relatively unaware of the current state of knowledge, and this article is well worth the time to read carefully. The authors provide a practical yet detailed summary of the scientific basis and management strategies of an up-to-date, sophisticated evidence-based treatment program for treatment of tobacco use.

Summary of Recommendations: Treatment of Tobacco Use

3.1.1.1. We recommend that current smokers undergoing low-dose CT screening be provided with cessation interventions that include counseling and pharmacotherapy (Grade 1B).

Remark: The act of screening alone is insufficient to promote smoking cessation.

Remark: The use of self-help materials is insufficient for achieving an increased rate of smoking abstinence.

3.1.1.2. Among current smokers with demonstrated smoking related pulmonary disease we recommend providing intensive cessation interventions (Grade 1B).

3.2.1.1. Among lung cancer patients undergoing surgery, we recommend perioperative cessation pharmacotherapy as a method for improving abstinence rates (Grade 1B).

3.2.1.2. Among lung cancer patients undergoing surgery for whom pharmacotherapeutic support is either contraindicated or refused, we suggest cessation counseling alone during the perioperative period (Grade 2C).

3.2.1.3. Among lung cancer patients undergoing surgery, the timing of cessation does not appear to increase the risk of post-operative complications; we suggest that cessation interventions be initiated in the pre-operative period (Grade 2C).

Remark: Small observed effect sizes and limitations in experimental design do not justify delaying surgical procedures in favor of longer abstinence duration.

3.2.1.4. For lung cancer patients attempting cessation in conjunction with surgical interventions, we recommend initiating counseling and pharmacotherapy at the outset of surgical intervention (Grade 1B).

Remark: There is substantial evidence suggesting that reliance on short, low intensity cessation interventions such as advice to quit does not improve abstinence outcomes.

3.3.1.1. Among lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, we recommend cessation interventions that include counseling and pharmacotherapy to improve abstinence rates (Grade 1B).

3.3.1.2. Among lung cancer patients with depressive symptoms, we suggest cessation pharmacotherapy with bupropion as a method to improve abstinence rates, depressive symptoms, and quality of life (Grade 2B).

3.3.1.3. Among lung cancer patients for whom pharmacotherapeutic support is either contraindicated or refused, we suggest cessation counseling alone as a method to improve abstinence rates (Grade 2C).

3.4.1.1. Among lung cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy, we recommend cessation interventions that include counseling and pharmacotherapy (Grade 1C).

Major progress has been made in defining the role of screening for lung cancer. The results of a major RCT evaluating chest radiographs is consistent with earlier RCTs, showing that this is not a useful screening test. There are several RCTs evaluating the role of LDCT scanning. The largest of these is the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial (NLST), which has reported a reduction in lung cancer deaths among screened individuals. This involved patients with a significant risk of lung cancer due to age and smoking history. Two smaller studies have also reported mortality data; although they did not demonstrate a mortality benefit, they are probably best viewed as neither supporting nor refuting the NLST results. The average risk of lung cancer of individuals participating in these smaller trials appears to be slightly less.

LDCT scanning identifies small nodules in 10% to 50% of those screened, the vast majority of which are benign. The rate of nodule detection varies and is not readily explained (eg, size criteria, scanner parameters, population risk, and so forth). All of the controlled LDCT scanning trials have had an organized process in place for evaluation of findings, and this has resulted in relatively few patients undergoing invasive biopsies. Nevertheless, the rate of biopsy for benign lesions is highly variable and averages around 30%. The reason for the variation is poorly understood. Although harms have been relatively few, there is a risk from radiation exposure, and there have been complications and even rare deaths in patients undergoing investigation of what turned out to be a benign, screen-detected nodule.

These results indicate that screening is a complex interplay of baseline risk, the screening test, test interpretation, and management of the findings. There is a large potential for benefit, but implementation of LDCT screening is made difficult by the lack of data about the impact that various selection, structural, and technical aspects of the screening process have on outcomes. Furthermore, many RCTs of LDCT scanning are still ongoing. The recommendation at this time is to implement screening in settings and patients that match those of the NLST while further data are acquired.

Summary of Recommendations: Screening for Lung Cancer

3.2.1. In patients at risk for developing lung cancer, screening for lung cancer with chest radiograph (CXR) once or at regular intervals is not recommended (Grade 1A).

Remark: These results should not be interpreted as diminishing the role of CXR in evaluating patients with pulmonary symptoms (an entirely different situation than screening asymptomatic individuals).

3.2.2. In patients at risk for developing lung cancer, screening for lung cancer with sputum cytology at regular intervals is not suggested (Grade 2B).

3.4.1. For smokers and former smokers who are age 55 to 74 and who have smoked for 30 pack-years or more and either continue to smoke or have quit within the past 15 years, we suggest that annual screening with low-dose CT (LDCT) should be offered over both annual screening with CXR or no screening, but only in settings that can deliver the comprehensive care provided to National Lung Screening Trial participants (Grade 2B).

Remark: Counseling should include a complete description of potential benefits and harms, so the individual can decide whether to undergo LDCT screening.

Remark: Screening should be conducted in a center similar to those where the National Lung Screening Trial was conducted, with multidisciplinary coordinated care and a comprehensive process for screening, image interpretation, management of findings, and evaluation and treatment of potential cancers.

Remark: A number of important questions about screening could be addressed if individuals who are screened for lung cancer are entered into a registry that captures data on follow-up testing, radiation exposure, patient experience, and smoking behavior.

Remark: Quality metrics should be developed such as those in use for mammography screening, which could help enhance the benefits and minimize the harm for individuals who undergo screening.

Remark: Screening for lung cancer is not a substitute for stopping smoking. The most important thing patients can do to prevent lung cancer is not smoke.

Remark: The most effective duration or frequency of screening is not known.

3.4.2. For individuals who have accumulated fewer than 30 pack-years of smoking or are either younger than age 55 or older than 74, or individuals who quit smoking more than 15 years ago, and for individuals with severe comorbidities that would preclude potentially curative treatment and/or limit life expectancy, we suggest that CT screening should not be performed (Grade 2C).

The management of a solitary pulmonary nodule has been addressed extensively, yet most pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons use an approach that is not closely grounded in solid evidence. The management of these patients is somewhat complex and is influenced by many considerations (eg, the risk of malignancy based on the patient’s history and features of the lesion), patient characteristics (eg, lung function), patient values and preferences, and the reliability of various tests.

This article does a superb job of integrating a large amount of data in a complex field into an evidence-based approach. It is extensively researched and well summarized, but the real value is the structure that is provided, which organizes the various factors and considerations (see Fig 2 in Gould et al2 in LC III). A useful starting point is to assess the risk of lung cancer as well as the patient’s risk for an invasive procedure. Larger masses must be approached differently than subcentimeter lesions or ground-glass opacities. Careful observation is reasonable in some settings. If a bronchoscopic or needle-based biopsy is selected, the possibility of a false-negative result must be kept in mind.

Summary of Recommendations: Evaluation of Pulmonary Nodules
General Approach

2.3.1. In the individual with an indeterminate nodule that is visible on chest radiography and/or chest CT, we recommend that prior imaging tests should be reviewed (Grade 1C).

2.3.2. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that has been stable for at least 2 years, we suggest that no additional diagnostic evaluation need be performed (Grade 2C).

Remark: This recommendation applies only to solid nodules. For guidance about follow-up of subsolid nodules, see Recommendations 6.5.1. to 6.5.4.

2.3.3. In the individual with an indeterminate nodule that is identified by chest radiography, we recommend that CT of the chest should be performed (preferably with thin sections through the nodule) to help characterize the nodule (Grade 1C).

Solid Nodules > 8 mm

4.1.1.1. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter, we suggest that clinicians estimate the pretest probability of malignancy either qualitatively by using their clinical judgment and/or quantitatively by using a validated model (Grade 2C).

4.2.4.1. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter and low to moderate pretest probability of malignancy (5%-65%), we suggest that functional imaging, preferably with PET, should be performed to characterize the nodule (Grade 2C).

4.2.4.2. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter and a high pretest probability of malignancy (> 65%), we suggest that functional imaging should not be performed to characterize the nodule (Grade 2C).

Remark: PET may be indicated for pretreatment staging among those patients with nodules in whom malignancy is strongly suspected or confirmed.

4.4.1.1. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter, we recommend that clinicians discuss the risks and benefits of alternative management strategies and elicit patient preferences for management (Grade 1C).

4.5.1.1. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter, we suggest surveillance with serial CT scans in the following circumstances (Grade 2C):

  • When the clinical probability of malignancy is very low (< 5%)

  • When clinical probability is low (< 30% to 40%) and the results of a functional imaging test are negative (ie, the lesion is not hypermetabolic by PET or does not enhance > 15 Hounsfield units on dynamic contrast CT), resulting in a very-low posttest probability of malignancy

  • When needle biopsy is nondiagnostic and the lesion is not hypermetabolic by PET

  • When a fully informed patient prefers this nonaggressive management approach.

Remark: CT surveillance of solid nodules ≥ 8 mm should use low-dose, noncontrast techniques.

4.5.1.2. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter who undergoes surveillance, we suggest that serial CT scans should be performed at 3 to 6, 9 to 12, and 18 to 24 months, using thin sections and noncontrast, low-dose techniques (Grade 2C).

Remark: Serial CT scans should be compared with all available prior studies, especially the initial (index) CT scan.

Remark: Where available, manual and/or computer-assisted measurements of area, volume, and/or mass may facilitate early detection of growth.

4.5.1.3. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that shows clear evidence of malignant growth on serial imaging, we recommend nonsurgical biopsy and/or surgical resection unless specifically contraindicated (Grade 1C).

Remark: Solid nodules that decrease in size but do not disappear completely should be followed to resolution or lack of growth over 2 years.

4.6.2.1.1. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter, we suggest nonsurgical biopsy in the following circumstances (Grade 2C):

  • When clinical pretest probability and findings on imaging tests are discordant

  • When the probability of malignancy is low to moderate (∼ 10% to 60%)

  • When a benign diagnosis requiring specific medical treatment is suspected

  • When a fully informed patient desires proof of a malignant diagnosis prior to surgery, especially when the risk of surgical complications is high.

Remark: The type of biopsy should be selected based on nodule size, location, and relation to a patent airway; the risk of complications in the individual patient; and available expertise.

4.6.3.1.1. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule that measures > 8 mm in diameter, we suggest surgical diagnosis in the following circumstances (Grade 2C):

  • When the clinical probability of malignancy is high (> 65%)

  • When the nodule is intensely hypermetabolic by PET or markedly positive by another functional imaging test

  • When nonsurgical biopsy is suspicious for malignancy

  • When a fully informed patient prefers undergoing a definitive diagnostic procedure.

4.6.3.1.2. In the individual with a solid, indeterminate nodule measuring > 8 mm in diameter who chooses surgical diagnosis, we recommend thoracoscopy to obtain a diagnostic wedge resection (Grade 1C).

Remark: Use of advanced localization techniques or open thoracotomy may be necessary when resecting small or deep nodules.

Solid Nodules ≤ 8 mm

5.3.1. In the individual with a solid nodule that measures ≤ 8 mm in diameter and no risk factors for lung cancer, we suggest that the frequency and duration of CT surveillance be chosen according to the size of the nodule (Grade 2C):

  • Nodules measuring ≤ 4 mm in diameter need not be followed, but the patient should be informed about the potential benefits and harms of this approach

  • Nodules measuring > 4 mm to 6 mm should be reevaluated at 12 months without the need for additional follow-up if unchanged

  • Nodules measuring > 6 mm to 8 mm should be followed sometime between 6 and 12 months, and then again at between 18 and 24 months if unchanged.

Remark: For the individual with multiple small, solid nodules, the frequency and duration of follow-up should be based on the size of the largest nodule.

Remark: CT surveillance of solid nodules ≤ 8 mm should use low-dose, noncontrast techniques.

5.3.2. In the individual with a solid nodule that measures ≤ 8 mm in diameter who has one or more risk factors for lung cancer, we suggest that the frequency and duration of CT surveillance be chosen according to the size of the nodule (Grade 2C):

  • Nodules measuring ≤ 4 mm in diameter should be reevaluated at 12 months without the need for additional follow-up if unchanged

  • Nodules measuring > 4 mm to 6 mm should be followed sometime between 6 and 12 months and then again between 18 and 24 months if unchanged

  • Nodules measuring > 6 mm to 8 mm should be followed initially sometime between 3 and 6 months, then subsequently between 9 and 12 months, and again at 24 months if unchanged.

Remark: For the individual with multiple small, solid nodules, the frequency and duration of follow-up should be based on the size of the largest nodule.

Remark: CT surveillance of solid nodules ≤ 8 mm should use low-dose, noncontrast techniques.

Nonsolid (Pure Ground Glass) Nodules

6.5.1. In the individual with a nonsolid (pure ground glass) nodule measuring ≤ 5 mm in diameter, we suggest no further evaluation (Grade 2C).

6.5.2. In the individual with a nonsolid (pure ground glass) nodule measuring > 5 mm in diameter, we suggest annual surveillance with chest CT for at least 3 years (Grade 2C).

Remark: CT surveillance of nonsolid nodules should use noncontrast techniques with thin sections through the nodule of interest.

Remark: Nonsolid nodules that grow or develop a solid component are often malignant, prompting further evaluation and/or consideration of resection.

Remark: Early follow-up at 3 months may be indicated for nonsolid nodules measuring > 10 mm (followed by nonsurgical biopsy and/or surgical resection for nodules that persist).

Remark: Limited duration or no follow-up may be preferred by individuals with life-limiting comorbidities in whom a low-grade malignancy would be of little consequence or by others who place a high value on avoiding treatment of possibly indolent lung cancer.

Part-Solid (> 50% Ground Glass) Nodules

6.5.3. In the individual with a part-solid nodule measuring ≤ 8 mm in diameter, we suggest CT surveillance at approximately 3, 12, and 24 months, followed by annual CT surveillance for an additional 1 to 3 years (Grade 2C).

Remark: CT surveillance of part-solid nodules should use noncontrast techniques with thin sections through the nodule of interest.

Remark: Part-solid nodules that grow or develop a solid component are often malignant, prompting further evaluation and/or consideration of resection.

Remark: Limited duration or no follow-up may be preferred by individuals with life-limiting comorbidities in whom a low-grade malignancy would be of little consequence or by others who place a high value on avoiding treatment of possibly indolent lung cancer.

6.5.4. In the individual with a part-solid nodule measuring > 8 mm in diameter, we suggest repeat chest CT at 3 months followed by further evaluation with PET, nonsurgical biopsy, and/or surgical resection for nodules that persist (Grade 2C).

Remark: PET should not be used to characterize part-solid lesions in which the solid component measures ≤ 8 mm.

Remark: Nonsurgical biopsy can be used to establish the diagnosis and/or be combined with wire, radioactive seed, or dye localization to facilitate subsequent resection. A nondiagnostic biopsy result does not exclude the possibility of malignancy.

Remark: Part-solid nodules measuring > 15 mm in diameter should proceed directly to further evaluation with PET, nonsurgical biopsy, and/or surgical resection.

One or More Additional Nodules Detected During Nodule Evaluation

7.1.1. In the individual with a dominant nodule and one or more additional small nodules, we suggest that each nodule be evaluated individually and curative treatment not be denied unless there is histopathological confirmation of metastasis (Grade 2C).

Remark: The classification and appropriate treatment of patients with more than one pulmonary focus of lung cancer is difficult and requires multidisciplinary consideration.

9.0 Clinical and Organizational Factors in the Initial Evaluation of Patients With Lung Cancer

Patients with lung cancer may present with no symptoms, symptoms related to the primary tumor, or symptoms related to distant metastases. A number of paraneoplastic effects are also seen. The evaluation starts with a careful history and physical examination. The tasks of the initial evaluation, namely to establish a diagnosis and clinical stage and develop a treatment plan, proceed in an overlapping, not sequential manner. Involving a multidisciplinary team early during these processes can make the evaluation proceed more quickly with fewer unnecessary tests. However, quantifying the value of multidisciplinary evaluation or more timely care is difficult.

Summary of Recommendations: Initial Evaluation of Patients With Lung Cancer

4.4.1. For patients with known or suspected lung cancer, we suggest that the delivery of care be timely and efficient (Grade 2C).

Remark: Interventions to improve timeliness should be developed locally by addressing barriers to providing timely care that are specific to the local setting.

Remark: Efforts to improve timeliness should be balanced with the need to attend to other dimensions of health-care quality (such as safety, effectiveness, efficiency, equality, and consistency with patient values and preferences).

5.1.1. For patients with lung cancer who require multimodality therapy, we suggest using a multidisciplinary team approach (Grade 2C).

Remark: We suggest that multidisciplinary teams have representatives from pulmonary medicine, thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, palliative care, radiology, and pathology.

In most patients, the diagnosis of lung cancer is best established in a way that simultaneously confirms the stage of disease. If there is a pleural effusion, this represents an obvious target; however, there is a substantial false-negative rate to thoracentesis and cytology. Biopsy of distant sites or mediastinal nodes may be indicated but is covered elsewhere.

Many techniques are available to diagnose the primary tumor. This article extensively reviews the data for these, parsed out for specific situations. This helps guide the selection of which test to perform as well as how to interpret the results (ie, how to proceed if the test does not show cancer in a patient suspected of lung cancer). Bronchoscopy is ideal for central lesions but has low sensitivity and a high false-negative rate for peripheral lesions. Newer navigational techniques have improved sensitivity for peripheral lesions and a lower rate of pneumothorax compared with transthoracic needle aspiration, but all methods have a substantial false-negative rate.

Summary of Recommendations: Establishing the Diagnosis of Lung Cancer
General Approach to Diagnosis

2.3.1. In patients suspected of having small cell lung cancer (SCLC) based on the radiographic and clinical findings, it is recommended that the diagnosis be confirmed by the least invasive method (sputum cytology, thoracentesis, fine needle aspiration [FNA], bronchoscopy including transbronchial needle aspiration [TBNA]), as dictated by the patient’s presentation (Grade 1C).

2.3.2. In patients suspected of having lung cancer, who have extensive infiltration of the mediastinum based on radiographic studies and no evidence of extrathoracic metastatic disease (negative PET scan), it is recommended that the diagnosis of lung cancer be established by the least invasive and safest method (bronchoscopy with TBNA, endobronchial ultrasound-guided needle aspiration [EBUS-NA], endoscopic ultrasound-guided needle aspiration [EUS-NA], transthoracic needle aspiration [TTNA], or mediastinoscopy) (Grade 1C).

2.3.3. In patients suspected of having lung cancer who have a solitary extrathoracic site suspicious of a metastasis, it is recommended that tissue confirmation of the metastatic site be obtained if a FNA or biopsy of the site is feasible (Grade 1C).

2.3.4. In patients suspected of having lung cancer, who have lesions in multiple distant sites suspected of metastases but in whom biopsy of a metastatic site would be technically difficult, it is recommended that diagnosis of the primary lung lesion be obtained by the least invasive method (Grade 1C).

2.3.5. In patients suspected of having lung cancer who have an accessible pleural effusion, thoracentesis is recommended to diagnose the cause of the pleural effusion (Grade 1C).

Remark: Ultrasound-guided thoracentesis improves the success rate and decreases the rate of pneumothorax and therefore ultrasound is recommended for performing diagnostic thoracentesis.

2.3.6. In patients suspected of having lung cancer who have an accessible pleural effusion, if pleural fluid cytology is negative, pleural biopsy (via image-guided pleural biopsy, medical or surgical thoracoscopy) is recommended as the next step (Grade 1C).

Remark: If the CT scan of the chest shows pleural thickening or pleural nodules/masses, image-guided needle biopsy may be considered as the first step to obtain a biopsy of the pleura.

Remark: If pleural cytology is negative after the first thoracentesis, a second thoracentesis has been shown to increase the diagnostic yield of pleural fluid cytology. Depending on preferences and values (a simpler and less invasive test vs a more definitive test) a second thoracentesis may be considered before proceeding to biopsy of the pleura.

Diagnosis of the Primary Tumor

3.1.2.1. In patients suspected of having lung cancer, if sputum cytology is done but is negative for carcinoma, it is recommended that further testing be performed (Grade 1C).

Remark: Sputum cytology is an acceptable method of establishing the diagnosis. However, the sensitivity or sputum cytology varies by location of the lung cancer, and with the frequency and processing of the sputum at the center.

3.2.2.1. In patients suspected of having lung cancer, who have a central lesion, bronchoscopy is recommended to confirm the diagnosis. However, it is recommended that further testing be performed if bronchoscopy results are non-diagnostic and suspicion of lung cancer remains (Grade 1B).

Remark: In recent years a number of complementary tools including radial endobronchial ultrasound and electromagnetic navigation have been added to flexible bronchoscopy to aid in the diagnosis of peripheral lung lesions.

3.3.2.1. In patients suspected of having lung cancer, who have a peripheral lung nodule, and a tissue diagnosis is required due to uncertainty of diagnosis or poor surgical candidacy, radial EBUS is recommended as an adjunct imaging modality (Grade 1C).

Remark: Radial EBUS can confirm in real time the ideal location of bronchoscopic sampling and increase the diagnostic yield over conventional bronchoscopy for peripheral nodules.

3.4.2.1. In patients with peripheral lung lesions difficult to reach with conventional bronchoscopy, electromagnetic navigation guidance is recommended if the equipment and the expertise are available (Grade 1C).

Remark: The procedure can be performed with or without fluoroscopic guidance and it has been found complementary to radial probe ultrasound

Remark: If electromagnetic navigation is not available, TTNA is recommended.

3.5.2.1. In patients suspected of having lung cancer who have a peripheral lesion, and who require tissue diagnosis before further management can be planned, TTNA is a diagnostic option. However, it is recommended that further testing be performed if TTNA results are non-diagnostic and suspicion of lung cancer remains (Grade 1B).

3.6.2.1. In patients suspected of having lung cancer, the diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer made on cytology (sputum, TTNA, bronchoscopic specimens, or pleural fluid) is reliable. However, it is recommended that adequate tissue be obtained to accurately define the histologic type and to perform molecular analysis when applicable (Grade 1B).

Remark: It is critical to obtain adequate tissue to characterize a lung cancer. Within an institution, effective communication between those obtaining the biopsies, those interpreting them, and those delivering the treatment must be in place so that collectively, the members of various subspecialties involved in the care of the lung cancer patient can decide how best to obtain and optimally use the tissue. If specimens are not adequate for histologic and molecular characterization then obtaining a second biopsy is acceptable given the importance of accurate tumor characterization.

3.6.2.2. The possibility of an erroneous diagnosis of SCLC on a cytology specimen must be kept in mind if the clinical presentation or clinical course is not consistent with that of SCLC. In such a case, it is recommended that further testing be performed to establish a definitive cell type (Grade 1B).

11.0 Physiologic Evaluation of the Patient With Lung Cancer Being Considered for Resectional Surgery

Surgery remains the mainstay of treatment of early-stage lung cancer, and assessment of a patient’s ability to tolerate a resection is important. Patients should undergo a simple cardiac risk assessment, with further investigation (ie, cardiopulmonary exercise testing) if this suggests potential complications. Assessment of pulmonary reserve should include both spirometry and diffusion capacity, calculated as a predicted postoperative value (taking into account the intended resection) and expressed as a percent of normal (thus taking into account variations in body size). Patients with moderate impairment should undergo a simple exercise test, such as stair climbing; if performance is limited (stair climb of < 22 m), formal cardiopulmonary exercise testing is indicated (see Fig 2 in Brunelli et al3 in LC III).

An important aspect of physiologic evaluation is that there is a continuum of risk and benefit that is not well served by simple dichotomization into a yes/no categorization of candidacy for pulmonary resection. Furthermore, the available data primarily pertain to open thoracotomy; thoracoscopic resection is clearly better tolerated, although the criteria for preoperative assessment are not well defined. The decision to undertake surgery must take into account aspects such as the possibility of sublobar resection, thoracoscopic resection, alternative (nonsurgical) treatments, and beneficial effects of smoking cessation and preoperative pulmonary rehabilitation.

The available data primarily define outcomes relative to acute morbidity and mortality; the effect on long-term functional status is less well understood. Patients with worse preoperative lung function often lose less function. The evaluation of marginal patients requires multidisciplinary management.

Summary of Recommendations: Physiologic Evaluation Prior to Resectional Surgery

2.6.1. In patients with lung cancer who are potential candidates for curative surgical resection, it is recommended that they be assessed by a multidisciplinary team, which includes a thoracic surgeon specializing in lung cancer, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and pulmonologist (Grade 1C).

2.6.2. In elderly patients with lung cancer who are potential candidates for curative surgical resection it is recommended that they be fully evaluated regardless of age (Grade 1C).

2.6.3. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery who have increased perioperative cardiovascular risk, a preoperative cardiologic evaluation is recommended, with further management according to existing cardiologic guidelines for non cardiac surgery (Grade 1C).

3.1.1.1. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery, it is recommended that both FEV1 and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) be measured in all patients and that both predicted postoperative (PPO) FEV1 and PPO DLCO are calculated (Grade 1B).

3.2.1.1. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery, if both PPO FEV1 and PPO DLCO are > 60% predicted, no further tests are recommended (Grade 1C).

Remark: Values of both PPO FEV1 and PPO DLCO > 60% indicate low risk for perioperative death and cardiopulmonary complications following resection including pneumonectomy.

3.2.1.2. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery, if either the PPO FEV1 or PPO DLCO are < 60% predicted and both are above 30% predicted, it is recommended that a low technology exercise test (stair climb or shuttle walk test [SWT]) is performed (Grade 1C).

3.2.1.3. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery, with either a PPO FEV1 < 30% predicted or a PPO DLCO < 30% predicted performance of a formal cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET) with measurement of maximal oxygen consumption (V˙ O2max) is recommended (Grade 1B).

Remark: Either a PPO FEV1 < 30% predicted or a PPO DLCO < 30% predicted indicate an increased risk for perioperative death and cardiopulmonary complications with anatomic lung resection.

3.9.1. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery who walk < 25 shuttles (or < 400m) on the SWT or climb < 22m at symptom limited stair climbing test, performance of a formal CPET with measurement of V˙ O2max is recommended (Grade 1C).

Remark: Walking < 25 shuttles (or < 400m) on the SWT or climbing < 22m at symptom limited stair climbing test suggests an increased risk for perioperative death and cardiopulmonary complications with anatomic lung resection.

3.9.2. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery and a V˙ O2max < 10mL/kg/min or < 35% predicted it is recommended that they are counseled about minimally invasive surgery, sublobar resections or nonoperative treatment options for their lung cancer (Grade 1C).

Remark: a V˙ O2max < 10mL/kg/min or < 35% predicted indicates a high risk for perioperative death and cardiopulmonary complications with major anatomic lung resection through thoracotomy.

Remark: For values of V˙ O2max in the range of 10 to 15 mL/kg/min an increased risk of mortality is expected. However, data are less definitive for making decisions based solely on those values without taking into account other factors like PPO FEV1 and DLCO as well as patient comorbidities.

6.1.1. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery who undergo neoadjuvant therapy, it is suggested that repeat pulmonary function testing with diffusion capacity be performed after completion of neoadjuvant therapy (Grade 2C).

7.4.1. In patients with lung cancer in an area of upper lobe emphysema who are candidates for lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS), combined LVRS and lung cancer resection is suggested (Grade 2C).

7.4.2. In all patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery who are actively smoking, tobacco dependence treatment is recommended (Grade 1C).

Remark: Smoking cessation is associated with short-term perioperative and long-term survival benefits (see also specific recommendations in chapter 6, 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3).

7.4.3. In patients with lung cancer being considered for surgery and deemed at high risk (as defined by the proposed functional algorithm, ie, PPO FEV1 or PPO DLCO < 60% and V˙ O2max < 10 mL/kg/min or < 35%), preoperative or postoperative pulmonary rehabilitation is recommended (Grade 1C).

Having a consistent nomenclature is crucial to being able to communicate and compare data from different studies and centers. The official worldwide stage classification system (seventh edition) is based on an unprecedented initiative of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer involving a database of > 100,000 patients diagnosed between 1990 and 2000. This system is the basis for the nomenclature used in the third edition of the ACCP Lung Cancer Guidelines. This article discusses the basics as well as the many details of the system. An Internet-accessible tool to navigate the stage classification is also available at www.staginglungcancer.org.

As with any detailed and complex system, there are areas that are confusing and ambiguous (eg, measurement of ground-glass opacities; the use of clinical and pathologic stage for individual T, N, and M descriptors; and classification of synchronous primary cancers, additional pulmonary nodules, and multifocal lung cancer). This article also provides some guidance about how to deal with these issues.

Accurately defining the anatomic extent of disease is critical to selecting the appropriate therapy for patients with lung cancer. Many studies have provided additional data regarding how best to achieve this. PET imaging has assumed a prominent role, but it is important to confirm positive PET findings with a biopsy in most situations. The clinical setting and the extent of additional staging tests influences the impact of PET—the. benefit being most marked in patients at greater risk of distant metastases (weight loss, mediastinal node enlargement) and those who do not undergo extensive imaging for distant metastases or invasive mediastinal staging in addition to PET imaging.

Invasive mediastinal staging is important for most patients who do not have distant metastases. The role of endobronchial ultrasound has become well founded, with many studies being available. It is important to note, however, that details of how a procedure is performed likely influence how well the test functions in practice. Data from reported studies often involve a thorough sampling. In general practice, node sampling during mediastinoscopy has been more limited; whether this will be true of endobronchial ultrasound with wider application is yet to be determined.

Summary of Recommendations: Methods of Staging for Non-small Cell Lung Cancer
General Approach

2.1.1. For patients with either a known or suspected lung cancer who are eligible for treatment, a CT scan of the chest with contrast is recommended (Grade 1B).

Remark: If PET scan is unavailable for staging, the CT of the chest should be extended to include the liver and adrenal glands to assess for metastatic disease.

2.1.2. For patients with either a known or suspected lung cancer, it is recommended that a thorough clinical evaluation be performed to provide an initial definition of tumor stage (Grade 1B).

2.1.3. In patients with either a known or suspected lung cancer who have an abnormal clinical evaluation and no suspicious extrathoracic abnormalities on chest CT, additional imaging for metastases is recommended (Grade 1B).

Remark: Site specific symptoms warrant directed evaluation of that site with the most appropriate study.

Extrathoracic Staging

3.1.1. In patients with a normal clinical evaluation and no suspicious extrathoracic abnormalities on chest CT being considered for curative-intent treatment, PET imaging (where available) is recommended to evaluate for metastases (except the brain) (Grade 1B).

Remark: Ground glass opacities and an otherwise normal chest CT do not require a PET scan for staging.

Remark: In patients with peripheral stage cIA tumors a PET scan is not required.

Remark: If PET is unavailable, bone scan and abdominal CT are reasonable alternatives to evaluate for extrathoracic disease.

3.1.2. In patients with an imaging finding (eg, by PET) suggestive of a metastasis, further evaluation of the abnormality with tissue sampling to pathologically confirm the clinical stage is recommended prior to choosing treatment (Grade 1B).

Remark: Tissue sampling of the abnormal site is imperative so that the patient is not excluded from potentially curative treatment.

Remark: Tissue sampling of a distant metastatic site is not necessary if there is overwhelming radiographic evidence of metastatic disease in multiple sites.

Remark: Tissue sampling of the mediastinal lymph nodes does not necessarily need to be performed if there is overwhelming radiographic evidence of metastatic disease in multiple distant sites.

3.4.1. In patients with clinical stage III or IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) it is suggested that routine imaging of the brain with head MRI (or CT if MRI is not available) should be performed, even if they have a negative clinical evaluation (Grade 2C).

Mediastinal Staging

4.4.2.1. For patients with extensive mediastinal infiltration of tumor and no distant metastases, it is suggested that radiographic (CT) assessment of the mediastinal stage is usually sufficient without invasive confirmation (Grade 2C).

4.4.4.1. In patients with discrete mediastinal lymph node enlargement (and no distant metastases) with or without PET uptake in mediastinal nodes, invasive staging of the mediastinum is recommended over staging by imaging alone (Grade 1C).

4.4.4.2. In patients with PET activity in a mediastinal lymph node and normal appearing nodes by CT (and no distant metastases), invasive staging of the mediastinum is recommended over staging by imaging alone (Grade 1C).

4.4.4.3. In patients with high suspicion of N2,3 involvement, either by discrete mediastinal lymph node enlargement or PET uptake (and no distant metastases), a needle technique (endobronchial ultrasound [EBUS]-needle aspiration [NA], EUS-NA or combined EBUS/EUS-NA) is recommended over surgical staging as a best first test (Grade 1B).

Remark: This recommendation is based on the availability of these technologies (EBUS-NA, EUS-NA or combined EBUS/EUS-NA) and the appropriate experience and skill of the operator.

Remark: In cases where the clinical suspicion of mediastinal node involvement remains high after a negative result using a needle technique, surgical staging (eg, mediastinoscopy, video-assisted thoracic surgery [VATS], etc) should be performed.

Remark: The reliability of mediastinal staging may be more dependent on the thoroughness with which the procedure is performed than by which test is used.

4.4.6.1. In patients with an intermediate suspicion of N2,3 involvement, ie, a radiographically normal mediastinum (by CT and PET) and a central tumor or N1 lymph node enlargement (and no distant metastases), invasive staging of the mediastinum is recommended over staging by imaging alone (Grade 1C).

4.4.6.2. In patients with an intermediate suspicion of N2,3 involvement, ie, a radiographically normal mediastinum (by CT and PET) and a central tumor or N1 lymph node enlargement (and no distant metastases), a needle technique (EBUS-NA, EUS-NA or combined EBUS/EUS-NA) is suggested over surgical staging as a best first test (Grade 2B).

Remark: This recommendation is based on the availability of these technologies (EBUS-NA, EUS-NA or combined EBUS/EUS-NA) and the appropriate experience and skill of the operator.

Remark: In cases where the clinical suspicion of mediastinal node involvement remains high after a negative result using a needle technique, surgical staging (eg, mediastinoscopy, VATS, etc) should be performed.

Remark: The reliability of mediastinal staging may be more dependent on the thoroughness with which the procedure is performed than by which test is used.

4.4.8.1. For patients with a peripheral clinical stage IA tumor (negative nodal involvement by CT and PET), it is suggested that invasive preoperative evaluation of the mediastinal nodes is not required (Grade 2B).