According to the American Cancer Society, doctors do not use blood tests to detect lung cancer, but bloodwork can provide useful information on a patient’s overall health. A complete blood count (CBC) can check for anemia (low red blood cell count), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) that can cause bleeding, and neutropenia (low white blood cell count) that can increase the risk of infection. A doctor can check a patient’s liver and kidney function to figure out whether it would be safe to perform surgery. Everyday Health reported that researchers have developed a blood test that can detect a significant percentage of early-stage lung cancers, but more work is needed to prevent false positive results.
Where Does Lung Cancer Start and How Can It Spread?
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, most people with lung cancer have non-small cell lung cancer, which begins in epithelial cells that line the airways and produce mucus. Non-small cell lung cancer can take different forms depending on where it started. The origin can influence the patient’s course of treatment. Small cell lung cancer starts in nerve cells or in cells that produce hormones.
A tumor can begin growing in the lung and shed cancer cells, which can then travel via the lymph nodes or bloodstream to other parts of the body. A patient’s prognosis depends on the type and stage of lung cancer and whether it has spread, or metastasized.
More than 200,000 U.S. adults are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. It is the deadliest form of cancer, but the death rate has been declining in recent years. That is due in part to the fact that more people are quitting smoking or not starting in the first place. Improvements in diagnosis and treatment have also increased survival rates among lung cancer patients.
How Can Lung Cancer Be Diagnosed and Treated?
Although doctors do not use blood tests to detect lung cancer, they have a variety of other tools at their disposal. They may use imaging tests, such as a CT scan, MRI, or PET scan, to screen for lung cancer.
Several procedures can be used to remove samples for study. In a biopsy, a small amount of tissue is removed and studied microscopically to determine which subtype of cancer a patient has and to perform molecular testing to check for genetic mutations. In a bronchoscopy, a thin, flexible tube with a light on the end is passed through the nose or mouth and into the lungs to collect samples.
A needle aspiration and core biopsy both use needles to remove a sample of a lung tumor for testing. A core biopsy generally provides more tissue than needle aspiration. In thoracentesis, a needle is used to remove fluid from the space between the lung and the chest wall.
In a mediastinoscopy or a mediastinotomy, an incision is made to remove samples from the lymph nodes in the center of the chest. Thoracoscopy is a procedure in which a small incision is made in the chest wall and an instrument with a video camera is inserted to perform an examination and take tumor samples. The difference is in the size and location of the incision. Thoracotomy is a procedure in which a surgeon makes an incision in the chest to examine the lung directly and remove tissue samples.
PD-L1 testing can be used to detect a protein that blocks the immune system response in patients with later-stage lung cancer. That can help a doctor choose an appropriate treatment.
Sputum cytology is a test in which phlegm is examined under a microscope. This test can detect some forms of lung cancer better than others.
Diagnostic tests can help a doctor figure out the stage of cancer. Lung cancer can be treated at any stage, but patients whose cancer is caught early have a better chance of survival. An oncologist may recommend some combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
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If You Have Lung Cancer, You May Be Entitled to Compensation
Many people associate lung cancer with smoking, but it can also be caused by asbestos and radon. If you developed lung cancer after being exposed to one of those carcinogens, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
Asbestos is a type of naturally occurring fiber that was used for decades in building materials, automotive parts, and a wide range of household goods, according to The Mesothelioma Center. Many people who were exposed to asbestos in the workplace or at home developed cancer decades later.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, radon is an odorless radioactive gas that forms when uranium and other elements in rocks, soil, and water break down. People who lived or worked in basements and who were unknowingly exposed to radon for years may later develop lung cancer. Even though testing is relatively simple and inexpensive, many building owners and landlords do not check radon levels.
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