Lung cancer can be scary, just like any other cancer. When it comes to lung cancer, it is extremely important to check with a doctor if you feel abnormal. Early diagnosis is crucial as it can be a life saver because if it is not found early, it can spread to other parts of the body very quickly. Read the article below to learn more about lung cancer.
Lung cancer is a condition that causes cells to divide in the lungs uncontrollably. This causes the growth of tumors that reduce a person’s ability to breathe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 218,527 people in the United States received a lung cancer diagnosis in 2015. Early diagnosis can help a person seek treatment, as early as possible, in the disease’s course. Identifying lung cancer in its earliest stages can be difficult, however, because the symptoms may be similar to those of a respiratory infection, or there may be no symptoms at all.
If a doctor identifies a suspicious lesion on a lung cancer screening, or a person is experiencing symptoms that could indicate lung cancer, several diagnostic tests are available to confirm the next steps.
Examples of these include:
Imaging studies: Computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans might reveal areas of lung tissue with cancer. Bone scans can also indicate cancerous growths. Doctors may also use these scans to track the progress of treatment or to ensure cancer has not returned, following a course of treatment.
Tissue sampling: If a doctor identifies a suspicious lesion on an imaging study, they may recommend taking a sample of lung tissue to test for potentially cancerous cells.
There are different ways to take a tissue sample, and the method often depends on the location of the lesion. One example is when a doctor performs a bronchoscopy, which involves inserting a special thin, lighted scope with a camera on the end. This helps the doctor to see the lesion and then to obtain samples. Less accessible lesions in the lungs may require a more invasive surgical procedure to remove lung tissue, such as thoracoscopy or video-assisted thoracic surgery.
Lab testing: A doctor may also order sputum testing or blood testing to check for the presence of lung cancer.
A doctor will use this information to determine what type of lung cancer may be present, and how advanced the disease has become.
The importance of early diagnosis
Early diagnosis of lung cancer can be lifesaving. This is because lung cancer cells can travel to other areas of the body before a doctor detects them in the lungs. If this spread or metastasis has taken place, it makes treating the disease much more difficult.
Sometimes, a doctor will recommend a person have lung cancer screenings. These are performed using a low-dose CT scanner. Not everyone is a candidate for this screening, but it can help doctors identify lung cancer earlier in some individuals.
According to the American Lung Association, people who may be candidates for lung cancer screenings are those who:
- are between 55 and 80 years of age
- are a 30 pack-year history of smoking, meaning they smoked one pack per day for 30 years or two packs per day for 15 years
- are a current smoker or smoker who has quit within the past 15 years
Insurance will often cover this screening if a person meets all these criteria. However, people should always check with their insurance company before signing up for lung cancer screening.