BACKGROUND: Participation in lung cancer CT-screening can be associated with a need for follow-up procedures. The screening and waiting for test results introduce the risk of experiencing psychosocial consequences. Therefore, the aims of this study were: 1) To investigate if the psychosocial consequences changed from before an annual screening round to before a three-month follow-up CT-scan in participants with a positive screening result. 2) To investigate potential differences in psychosocial consequences between false positives (FP) and true positives (TP). FP were defined as those where cancer was not confirmed in the follow-up CT-scan and TP where it was.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This longitudinal study was based on data from the Danish Lung Cancer Screening Trial (DLCST). The Consequences of Screening - Lung cancer (COS-LC) questionnaire was used to measure psychosocial consequences among 130 participants who all received an abnormal CT-screening result at their annual screening round. Eligible participants completed the COS-LC before their annual CT-screening and before the three-month follow-up.
RESULTS: We found a statistically significant increase in negative psychosocial consequences between the annual lung cancer CT-screening and the three-month follow-up CT-scan in four of nine psychosocial scales; Sense of dejection, Self-blame, Focus on airway symptoms and Harm of smoking. Furthermore, an increase, however not statistically significant, was identified in all remaining scales, except for the scale Stigmatisation which was slightly decreased. We found no evidence of an association between psychosocial consequences and diagnostic groups, FP and TP.
CONCLUSIONS: An increase in negative psychosocial consequences was observed between the annual lung cancer CT-screening and the three-month follow-up CT-scan. Since we found no statistically significant difference between the diagnostic groups, the increase in negative psychosocial consequences is interpreted as a nocebo effect of living three months in uncertainty not knowing if one's positive CT-screening result was true or false.