People with increased risks for cancer of the lungs are recommended by several organizations to consider an annual CT or computerized tomography scan to check for cancer in the lungs. There are benefits and risks of screening for lung cancer if you are age fifty five or older and used to smoke or currently smoke.
Study after study shows that finding cancer earlier through screening really does save lives. Early detection also results in more successful treatments.
Lung Cancer Diagnostic Tests
There are a number of tests your doctor can order if there is a reason to think you might have cancer of the lungs. Your doctor can order a few tests to look for cancerous cells and for other conditions to be ruled out. Your doctor might recommend the following tests to diagnose lung cancer:
A biopsy or tissue sample is when a sample of abnormal cells might be removed in a biopsy procedure. There are a few ways your doctor can do a biopsy. This includes an examination of abnormal lung areas using a tube that is lighted and passed down your throat into your lungs. This is also known as a bronchoscopy.
Another method of performing a biopsy is called a mediastinoscopy in which an incision is done at your neck’s base and then behind your breastbone surgical tools are inserted to take lymph node tissue samples. A biopsy can also be done by a doctor using a CT image or X-ray to guide a needle through the wall of your chest into your lungs to collect cells that look suspicious. Biopsies can also be taken from your liver or other areas your cancer may have spread.
Staging Lung Cancer
Once there has been a diagnosis for lung cancer, your doctor will work to find out what stage of cancer it is in. This will help your doctor come to a decision about what the best mode of treatment should be.
Tests for staging might include procedures for imaging which allows your physician to find evidence that there has been a spread of cancer beyond the lungs. These include bone scans, PET scans or positron emission tomography, MRI’s or magnetic resonance imaging and CT scans. Not all tests are appropriate for all persons. Find out which procedure is right for you by talking to your doctor.
Lung Cancer Stages
The first stage of lung cancer is when it has not spread to the lymph nodes and is limited to the lungs. Generally, the tumor is smaller than five centimetres or two inches across. The second stage of lung cancer is when at this stage the tumor has grown bigger than two inches or may be smaller in size but near other areas such as the lining around the lungs, the diaphragm or the chest wall. There may also have been a spread of the cancer to the lymph nodes nearby.
The third stage of cancer is when the tumor has grown quite large and has invaded other organs around the lungs. Stage three cancer of the lungs might also be an indication of smaller tumors with cancer cells farther away from the lungs in lymph nodes. The fourth stage of cancer is when it has spread beyond the lungs to other distant body areas.
Getting tested periodically on a regular basis to find out whether or not you have lung cancer will help you get early detection and early treatment.