Lung cancer is a prevalent and dangerous disease characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in the lungs. Detecting lung cancer early is crucial for effective treatment and improved patient outcomes. With early detection, healthcare professionals can develop personalized treatment plans that maximize the chances of successful outcomes for patients with lung cancer. In this article, we will delve into the ways to detect and diagnose lung cancer.
How is lung cancer screened?
When there is a suspicion of lung cancer, numerous tests can be performed to identify its presence and the extent of spread. These are imaging tools like chest radiograph, computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and positron emission tomography (PET) scan, etc.
Lung cancer is commonly detected through a combination of screening methods, especially for individuals at high risk. Early detection plays a crucial role in improving the chances of successful treatment and survival rates. Here are some commonly used screening methods:
- Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT): LDCT is the most effective screening tool for lung cancer. It uses low-dose radiation to create detailed cross-sectional images of the lungs. This non-invasive procedure can detect small tumors in the early stages when they are more treatable. LDCT is recommended for individuals aged 55 to 80 years with a history of heavy smoking or those who have quit within the past 15 years.
- Chest X-ray: Although chest X-rays are less sensitive in detecting lung cancer compared to LDCT, they are still sometimes used in initial screenings or for individuals who cannot undergo LDCT. X-rays provide a two-dimensional image of the lungs and may reveal suspicious areas that require further investigation. THIP MEDIA has also discussed that ultrasound tests detect lung cancer.
What are the diagnostic procedures for lung cancer?
When a potential abnormality is detected through screening or when a person presents with symptoms indicative of lung cancer, further diagnostic procedures are necessary to confirm the diagnosis. If the imaging shows lung cancer, the doctor may conduct a physical examination, sputum cytology test and biopsy. As excessive coughing is a major symptom of lung cancer, a sputum cytology test which analyses sputum under a microscope can sometimes reveal lung cancer cells. Besides this, the following tests are commonly employed:
- Biopsy: A biopsy is the main confirmatory test which confirms the presence of the abnormal cancer cells and their type. During a biopsy, the doctor removes a few abnormal cancer cells from the tumour with a needle. These removed cancer cells are further analysed in a laboratory to confirm their malignancy. There are different types of biopsies, including needle biopsy, bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy, and thoracoscopy. The choice of biopsy method depends on the location and size of the suspicious area.
- Molecular Testing: Molecular testing, also known as genetic testing or biomarker testing, is performed on the tissue sample obtained from a biopsy. It helps identify specific genetic mutations or biomarkers present in the cancer cells. This information is crucial for determining the most appropriate treatment options, such as targeted therapies or immunotherapies, which can effectively target these specific abnormalities.
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