About half the people who smoke and are over age 50 years will have nodules, many of them being noncancerous, on a CT scan of their chest. A CT scan test can also be used to look for the spread of lung cancer in the adrenal glands, liver, brain, and other organs.
Routine blood tests are not used to diagnose lung cancer, but they can indicate if cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver or kidneys. For example, if cancer has spread to the bones, it might be an abnormal increase in the levels of calcium and alkaline phosphatase.
In addition, many of the symptoms of lung cancer, such as shortness of breath or fatigue, are non-specific and easily attributed to things like age or obesity. There are surprisingly few recent studies looking at the actual incidence of missed diagnoses of lung cancer, but the research that has been done is sobering.
Lung biopsy, involving the extraction of suspicious tissues by needle or other methods, is ordered if a CT scan suggests cancer. If cancer is diagnosed, other tests will be performed to stage and grade the tumor so that the appropriate treatment can be delivered.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scans are less commonly used for the initial diagnosis of lung cancer and are considered more useful for the staging of the disease. A study published in JAVA involving 150,000 people at high risk of lung cancer reported that four years of annual chest X-rays did nothing to alter the death rate in the group.
Although the consensus among health officials is that the risks of annual CT screening in other groups outweigh the benefits, a 2019 study in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology suggests otherwise. According to the researchers, low-dose CT screening in non-smokers detected a significant number of cancers in the early stages that would have otherwise been missed.
On the downside, it is unclear if annual exposure to low-dose radiation might actually increase the risk of lung cancer over time. As reassuring as a “normal” result may seem, don't allow it to give you a false sense of security if the cause of persistent symptoms remains unknown or if the diagnosis you were given can 't explain them.
From the WebMD Archives April 8, 2005 -- When the news that Peter Jennings had lung cancer hit earlier this week, many WebMD users asked why doctors don't use chest X-rays to diagnose lung cancer at an early stage, when it's more treatable. WebMD turned to cancer expert Harold Burstein, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, for the answer.
The vast majority of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking, ” Burstein tells WebMD. Chest X-rays are inadequate for diagnosing lung cancers at an early stage, when they are more treatable.
The hope was that these CT scans would be able to find smaller, earlier cancers without leading to further unnecessary tests. “A variety of recent studies in the U.S. and Japan have suggested that high-resolution CT scans can often detect lung cancers.
However, he explains that these were small, early studies that were not able to answer the questions of whether CT scans can actually save lives. The report by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the U.S. Preventive Health Services Task Force says evidence that chest X-rays, CT scans, and other forms of screening can save lives is poor.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), radon gas causes approximately 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year. Asbestos is yet another natural substance that, if ingested, can lead to lung cancer.
Our team at Pints & Mullins Law Firm aims to make sure that you are not further damaged by an illness that you did not bring on yourself. Our clients pay nothing upfront, nothing out of pocket, and we only collect a fee if we win for you.
But it’s important to follow up on it because lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths for both men and women in the United States. The disease takes more lives than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
A nodule is defined as a lesion measuring 3 centimeters or smaller in diameter, says lung specialist Louis Lam, MD. Nodules are typically detected with routine chest imaging during an annual check-up or when you have a respiratory illness or unrelated doctor visit.
Dr. Lam says patients should know that there is a slight risk of radiation exposure from a CT scan and a small chance of “false-positives” that sometimes cause additional testing or surgery on a nodule that is non-cancerous. The recommended course of action, however, will depend on the size of the nodule and your risk level.
For instance, a person with a small nodule who is at low risk might have a follow-up CT scan annually for two years. If the nodule does not grow over the two-year period, your doctor likely will diagnose it as benign and will not treat it further, Dr. Lam says.
(Lung cancer rates vary by state due to several variables, including socioeconomic status, lifestyle choices and exposure to radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer.) But even if the nodule is not cancerous, Dr. Lam uses the experience as an opportunity to educate patients about the dangers of smoking.
One study found that smokers lose at least one decade of life expectancy compared with people who have never smoked. It also found that people who quit smoking by age 40 reduce their risk of smoking-related death by 90%.