More people die of lung cancer each year in the United States than any other type of cancer, yet when it's caught early, there are more treatment options and higher survival rates. In fact, annual screening with CT scans can detect lung cancers in their earliest stage, and up to 90 percent can be cured.
Based on screening guidelines established by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, patients who are considered high-risk for lung cancer may find benefit in having a low-dose CT screening to detect early lung cancer. The screening is not currently covered by insurance; eligible patients must be referred by a physician. Up to 40 percent of screening CT scans will show incidental findings, which may require additional evaluation and follow up.
Radiation dose reduction
At Beaumont Health System, we know that radiation exposure is a concern for patients and physicians. We offer the most advanced CT imaging available and follow stringent radiation safety principles. We are proud to be a leader in reducing radiation exposure while maintaining the highest quality of images through our research and technology.
How is lung cancer diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history (to check for risk factors and symptoms) and physical examination (to provide other information about signs of lung cancer and other health problems), procedures used to diagnose lung cancer may include:
- chest x-ray - to look for any mass or spot on the lungs.
- computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
- sputum cytology - a study of phlegm (mucus) to look for cancer cells under a microscope.
- needle biopsy - a needle is guided into the mass while the lungs are being viewed on a CT scan and a sample of the tissue is removed and evaluated in the pathology laboratory under a microscope. A lymph node biopsy may also be performed. Lymph nodes, located through out the body, serve as filters and also help to fight infection.
- bronchoscopy - the examination of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs) using a flexible tube (bronchoscope). Bronchoscopy helps to evaluate and diagnose lung problems, assess blockages, obtain samples of tissue and/or fluid, and/or to help remove a foreign body.
- mediastinoscopy - a process in which a small cut is made in the neck so that a tissue sample can be taken from the lymph nodes (mediastinal nodes) along the windpipe and the major bronchial tube areas to evaluate under a microscope.
- positron emission tomography (PET) scan - radioactive-tagged glucose (sugar) is injected into the bloodstream. Tissues that use the glucose more than normal tissues (such as tumors) can be detected by a scanning machine. PET scans can be used to find small tumors or to check if treatment for a known tumor is working.
- x-rays and scans of the brain, liver, bone, and adrenal glands - to determine if the cancer has spread from where it started into other areas of the body.