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Screening for Lung Cancer

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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Screening is a way to evaluate people without symptoms to determine if they are at risk for cancer or have already developed cancer.

Screening Guidelines

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.

Sources:

American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

National Cancer Institute



Last reviewed February 2003 by Jondavid Pollock, MD, PhD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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