Screening for Lung Cancer
Screening is a way to evaluate people without symptoms to determine if they are at risk for cancer or have already developed cancer.
There are currently no screening guidelines for lung cancer in people who do not have symptoms. Chest x-rays and sputum cytology have not found cancers early enough to improve the chance for long-term survival. Doctors do not know if screening with the new type of CT scan will save lives, so it’s use is still under investigation. It is not yet recommended as a screening tool.
Tests that Can Be Used to Screen for Lung Cancer
CT scan - a CT scan can identify small tumors. A CT scan is a series of x-rays put together by a computer to create images of the lung. A special spiral or helical low dose CT scan may identify smaller tumors than a regular x-ray. Several studies have shown that screening chest x-rays or sputum collection result in earlier diagnoses of lung cancer than CT scans. However, despite the earlier diagnoses, there does not appear to be a higher cure rate of the lung cancer. Screening studies are being performed with CT scans to see if these will ultimately change the outcome of lung cancer.
Chest x-ray - a series of standard x-ray images of your chest. Chest x-rays can detect larger tumors.
Sputum cytology - an analysis of sputum (mucus) under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
American Cancer Society
American Lung Association
National Cancer Institute
Last reviewed February 2003 by
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