Lung Cancer Testing and Diagnosis
Lung Cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers and kills more people in one year than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. This is because by the time symptoms of lung cancer appear, the disease has reached advanced stages which are more difficult and sometimes impossible to cure. In the past, there have never been routine screening methods identified to help with detection of lung cancer in the earliest, more treatable stages as there have been for other types of cancers.
Mammograms, colonoscopy and similar tests used for early detection of some cancers have lead to dramatic decrease in the number of deaths.
Recent studies have shown that earlier detection of lung cancer may now also be accomplished due to advancement of technology through Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan. This painless, non-invasive form of testing has enabled researchers to find tumors long before they would ever be visible through more traditional methods of diagnosis. In fact, patients who were a part of this study who had early diagnosis and sought treatment increased their 10-year survival rate to 80%. Read about lung cancer early detection with CT scans
There are several methods besides CT scan which can be used to diagnose lung cancer; however, these tests are typically only ordered once symptoms have occurred. The most common methods are:
- Chest X-ray: Allows the physician to see tumors which are advanced enough or located in areas where they will be visible through pictures taken with small does of radiation.
- Sputum Cytology: Mucus coughed up by the patient can be examined under a microscope for abnormal cells.
- Bronchoscopy: A tube inserted through the nose and into the lungs with a camera at the end allows the physician to look directly into the lungs for signs of tumors. Sometimes a needle is inserted through the tube to extract samples of the tumor or fluid and then examined under a microscope (biopsy.) A similar test can also be done using a color video which helps detect light which may be given off by the tissue. This is called "Autofluorescence bronchoscopy."
Other tests which might be used include:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Use magnetic fields to obtain images of body parts which can show tumors if present.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan: Often used to see if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- Thoracoscopy: Surgery used to "explore" lungs and chest area to look for tumors.
- Thoracentesis: Needle is inserted to remove fluid which may have collected in the chest area. The fluid is then examined to see if there are cancer cells.
- Mediastinoscopy: A scope inserted into the chest to see if cancer cells have spread to the area through which the patient breathes (trachea or "windpipe").
Sign up below to join our email list and receive notice of site updates and other I-ELCAP news.
Have questions? Contact us by email, telephone or mail.
If you're ready to talk about getting screened, or to make an appointment with a doctor in your area, search our list of member sites to find the location nearest you.
I-ELCAP would like thank Idologic, Inc., for its donation of hosting and support services.