Thanks to advances in medical technology, a computed tomography (CT) scan now allows doctors to detect lung cancer even during its early stages. This significantly improves patients’ chances of recovering from the disease and lowers related treatment costs. A CT scan is one of several diagnostic tests that physicians order when they suspect lung cancer.
Compared to chest X-rays, CT scans can more easily reveal tumors, including their shape, size, and position. Also, this imaging technique can show masses that might have developed as a result of lung cancer spread. However, a CT scan may overlook small tumors if a portion of the lungs has already collapsed.
Despite a CT scan’s capability to uncover tumors and masses, it is not enough to diagnose lung cancer. Your doctor will not be able to verify your disease until a lab fully analyzes a sample of your lung cells and finds malignant cells. It is imperative that you see your physician if you are experiencing persistent signs and symptoms of lung cancer, have worked with asbestos, or were a smoker. The Mayo Clinic lists some of the common symptoms of lung cancer, which range from general hoarseness to coughing up blood.
How a CT Scan Works
A CT scan is a type of screening test that uses both computer and X-ray technology. This non-invasive test can take a 360-degree view of any part of the body and produce multiple images for radiologists to examine in detail. The scan produces slices or cross-sectional pictures that show the locations of organs and tumors within the body. In the lungs, a CT scan can detect small abnormalities without difficulty due to its high sensitivity.
Low-Dose CT Scans
Relative to a regular CT scan, a low-dose CT scan emits a lower amount of radiation. This makes a huge difference for patients at high risk for lung cancer or those who already have the disease because they are mainly the ones who require regular screening. Minimizing the amount of exposure is important because too much radiation can generally increase the risk of cancer. Nevertheless, the risk is still considered low in X-rays and CT scans.
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Why High-Risk Patients Should Have Annual Lung Screenings
Cancer treatment is most beneficial when the disease is discovered early and has not affected other parts of the body. In other words, you have the best chance of getting better when lung cancer is diagnosed at the most curable stage.
The International Early Lung and Cardiac Action Program’s (IELCAP) study reveals that patients who received a lung cancer diagnosis during their annual CT screenings attained an overall cure rate of 80 percent. Patients who were part of the research were those assessed to be at risk for lung cancer due to their age, history of smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, and occupational exposure to carcinogens like asbestos.
You should think about having a lung cancer screening each year if you are between 50 to 80 years of age and have been a heavy smoker for many years, or you have been exposed to asbestos in your employment. It is best to talk to your doctor regarding your cancer risk and whether regular lung cancer screening is ideal for your circumstances.
How a Chest X-Ray Differs from a CT Scan
While an X-ray can show two flattened views of your chest, a CT scan can display cross-sectional images from the top through the bottom of your lungs. Slight abnormalities that could indicate lung cancer at its early stage usually would not appear on a simple X-ray.
A CT scan also works differently than an X-ray because it takes many pictures that a computer program will later combine to produce a clean, cross-sectional image. Doctors can then learn more about the dimensions of a mass and how quickly it is growing or shrinking. In contrast, an X-ray takes one picture that provides a single angle of the lungs and tissues surrounding them. Abnormalities may appear as shaded areas, but further evaluations must be performed to establish whether they are tumors.
Who May Be Liable When There Is a Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer
The longer lung cancer is left untreated, the more aggressive it can become. Hence, early detection is critical for the best prognosis and chance of survival. If you meet the criteria of being at high risk for developing lung cancer or exhibit symptoms of the disease, your primary care physician is responsible for ordering screening procedures.
Your doctor’s failure to thoroughly review your history, check your symptoms, and order proper tests may make them liable for any harm their negligence causes. In many cases, radiologists or family physicians commit acts of malpractice when they misinterpret or misread test results, do not give proper attention to recognized lung cancer symptoms, or do not acknowledge the significance of medical reports.
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Lung cancer can be seen on a CT scan, and your healthcare provider must take reasonable steps to alert you or offer treatment if they detect that you have it. Your doctor and other medical professionals may be held accountable for negligence if they already observed signs of your disease yet failed in their duty to order proper diagnostic screening. Reach out to Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 217-6099 to find out whether you are entitled to take legal action.