Screening For Lung Cancer & Lung Disease
The NHS do not carry out a formal screening programme for lung cancer, however the American Cancer Society does have screening guidelines for individuals who are at high risk of lung cancer due to cigarette smoking. If you meet all of the following criteria then you might be a candidate for screening:
55 to 74 years of age and in fairly good health
Have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history AND are either still smoking or have quit smoking within the last 15 years
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer), and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Most lung cancers could be prevented, because they are related to smoking (or secondhand smoke), or less often to exposure to radon or other environmental factors. But some lung cancers occur in people without any known risk factors for the disease. It is not yet clear if these cancers can be prevented.
Most lung cancers have already spread widely and are at an advanced stage when they are first found. These cancers are very hard to cure. But in recent years, doctors have found a test that can be used to screen for lung cancer in people at high risk of the disease. This test can help find some of these cancers early, which can lower the risk of dying from this disease.
If you would like to ask me about screening for lung cancer then please ask me today. Free email advice from a real doctor.
Dr Helen Webberley MBChB MRCGP MFSRH
GP and Reproductive Health Specialist
Dr Webberley is an NHS GP in South Wales and also runs a private General Practice service online.
Tests that might be used to look for lung cancer
For this test, a sample of sputum (mucus you cough up from the lungs) is looked at under a microscope to see if it contains cancer cells. The best way to do this is to get early morning samples from you 3 days in a row. This test is more likely to help find cancers that start in the major airways of the lung, such as most small cell lung cancers and squamous cell lung cancers. It may not be as helpful for finding other types of non-small cell lung cancer.
If you have symptoms that might be due to lung cancer, this is often the first test your doctor will do to look for any masses or spots on the lungs. Plain x-rays of your chest can be done at imaging centers, hospitals, and even in some doctors’ offices. If the x-ray is normal, you probably don’t have lung cancer (although some lung cancers may not show up on an x-ray). If something suspicious is seen, your doctor may order more tests.
Computed tomography (CT) scan
A CT (or CAT) scan is more likely to show lung tumors than routine chest x-rays. A CT scan can also provide precise information about the size, shape, and position of any lung tumors and can help find enlarged lymph nodes that might contain cancer that has spread from the lung.
The CT scan uses x-rays to produce detailed cross-sectional images of your body. Instead of taking one picture, like a regular x-ray, a CT scanner takes many pictures as it rotates around you while you lie on a table. A computer then combines these pictures into images of slices of the part of your body being studied. Unlike a regular x-ray, a CT scan creates detailed images of the soft tissues in the body.
A CT scanner has been described as a large donut, with a narrow table that slides in and out of the middle opening. You will need to lie still on the table while the scan is being done. CT scans take longer than regular x-rays, and you might feel a bit confined by the ring while the pictures are being taken.
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Other Lung Conditions
COPD, Emphysema, Asthma, Interstitial Lung Disease