Introduction: Although the importance of lung cancer screening for early diagnosis is established, because of poor enrollment, incidental findings still play a role in diagnosis of patients who qualify. Nevertheless, analysis of this incidental cohort is lacking. We present a retrospective analysis comparing patients with thoracic surgery with incidental versus screening detected stage I lung cancer. Methods: Thoracic surgery cases at Mount Sinai Hospital from March, 1, 2012, to June, 30, 2022, were queried for patients eligible for lung cancer screening and a stage I diagnosis. The basis of lung nodule detection (incidental versus screening detected) was identified. We compared demographic variables, comorbidities, tumor staging, procedure details, and postoperative outcomes between the cohorts. Results: Of the patients eligible for screening with lung cancer resection and stage I diagnosis at Mount Sinai, 153 were identified incidentally and 67 through screening. The patients in the incidental cohort were older (p = 0.005), more likely to have quit smoking (p = 0.04), and had a greater number of comorbidities (p = 0.0002). There was no statistically significant difference between the groups with regard to pack-year smoking history, lung cancer histological type, location or size of tumor, and surgical approach, length of surgery or stay, number of postoperative outcomes, and survival. Conclusions: In stage I lung cancers, no significant differences were identified between incidentally and screening detected lung nodules with regard to tumor characteristics, surgical approach, and postoperative outcomes. Imaging conducted for other reasons should be considered as a valid and important diagnostic tool, similar to traditional low-dose computed tomography, in patients who qualify for screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-588
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Incidental findings
  • LDCT
  • Lung cancer resections
  • Surgical complications


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