Doctors screen for lung cancer by using a technology called low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). This type of imaging produces clear images of the inside of the body while using significantly less ionizing radiation than traditional CT scans.
LDCT helps doctors to identify lung cancer in its earliest stages, even before the onset of symptoms. Other types of testing, including sputum cytology (in which doctors examine a patient’s phlegm) and chest X-rays may help doctors detect cancer in later stages. Still, they have not proven sufficient as a means of screening.
Studies show a decrease in lung cancer deaths when patients undergo LDCT screening. According to the Mayo Clinic, an LDCT scan only takes about a minute. The process involves no needles, medications, or dyes, and patients can return to normal activities immediately following their scans.
Benefits of Lung Cancer Screening
Because lung cancer screening allows a diagnosis in the earliest stages of the disease, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that it reduces lung cancer deaths by at least 20%, or 1 in 5 cases. Patients may have a better prognosis if doctors detect lung cancer in its earliest stages, as it typically responds more efficiently to treatment. Additionally, cases that reveal no sign of cancer may offer patients peace of mind regarding their health.
Currently, many health organizations agree that individuals 55 years of age or older and who smoke or used to smoke on a long-term basis should undergo lung cancer screening. Doctors may also recommend lung cancer screening for others who fall into the high-risk category. You may benefit from LDCT if you:
- Worked in an environment that exposed you to known carcinogens, such as radon or asbestos.
- Have had head, neck, or small cell lung cancer in the past.
- Have a family history of lung cancer.
- Have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or another chronic lung condition.
Types of Lung Cancer Detected by Screening
Doctors categorize lung cancer into two major types: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). From 80% to 85% of all lung cancers are NSCLC. This type of lung cancer grows more slowly than SCLC, which has a more aggressive nature. Both types of cancer often have symptoms that mimic other, less severe lung conditions, so patients usually do not receive a diagnosis in the earliest stages. More extensive LDCT screening may help change that.
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While LDCT can indicate the potential presence of lung cancer, it cannot determine its type. If you receive a positive result from your screening, your doctor will conduct further testing to confirm whether you have lung cancer or non-cancerous abnormalities such as inflamed tissue masses or benign tumors, which the Cleveland Clinic explains require no treatment in most cases.
To determine the type of lung cancer you have, your doctor may perform a biopsy, in which they remove a small amount of tissue or cells from the affected area for examination under a microscope. Understanding these details can help you and your doctor establish a treatment plan to which the cancer may effectively respond.
Lung Cancer Stages
The stages of lung cancer refer to its progression level and help your medical team determine the appropriate course of treatment. LDCT often finds lung cancer in its earliest stages before it has spread (metastasized) to other body structures or organs. This contributes to the efficacy of treatment, which often presents a challenge at later stages.
According to the American Cancer Society, SCLC consists of only two stages. In its limited stage, cancer affects one side of the chest and the lymph nodes on that side of the body. In its extensive stage, it has spread to other parts of the body.
NSCLC has a more detailed staging system, ranging from Stage 1, in which the cancer has not spread outside the lungs, through 4, in which cancer presents in both lungs and potentially other organs. While medical providers can more readily treat lung cancer in Stages 1 and 2, patients often do not learn they have cancer until Stage 3 or later. The medical community aims to increase instances of earlier identification through the regular use of LDCT.
Pintas & Mullins Law Firm Can Help You with Your Legal Case
Most people today understand the dangers of smoking and exposure to certain chemicals. However, many continue to suffer the adverse effects of these hazards due to companies’ failure to reveal their dangers from continued exposure despite awareness and legal protections designed to require disclosure.
If your lung cancer screening leads to a diagnosis due to a third party’s failure to protect you from exposure to dangerous chemicals, Pintas & Mullins Law Firm can help you seek compensation. Call us today at (800) 794-0444 to discuss your case with our legal team.