Ways to Detect Lung Cancer


What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer typically starts in the lungs and is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Smokers tend to be more susceptible to the disease, but people who have never smoked can also be affected.

If you have been a long-term smoker or know someone who is, here are some lung cancer symptoms to look out for:

1. Cough, typically something unusual and persistent.
2. Blood present in cough.
3. Feeling out of or short of breath.
4. Pain in the chest.
5. Losing a lot of weight, unusually.
6. Headache.
7. Pain in bones.
8. Hoarseness.

Successful treatment for lung cancer requires early detection. Even though there are apparent signs and symptoms, they may go unnoticed.


Types of Cancer

There are two types of cancers, primary and secondary. Primary lung cancer is the type that begins in the lungs whereas secondary lung cancer is the one that begins elsewhere in the body but spreads to the lungs. Types of cancers that have the potential to spread to the lungs are:

1. Bone cancer
2. Breast cancer
3. Neck and head cancer
4. Bowel cancer
5. Kidney cancer
6. Melanoma skin cancer
7. Testicular cancer
8. Bladder cancer

Primary cancer has the highest occurrence among individuals who smoke, as compared to secondary cancer.


How to Detect Lung Cancer Early

Low-Dose CT (LDCT) scans are an effective way to detect abnormalities in the lungs that can potentially develop into cancer. It is recommended that high-risk individuals have these scans every year. The earlier the detection of symptoms, the better the chances of effective treatment.


Cancer Detection Through Tests

For an actual diagnosis based on the lung cancer symptoms, the following methods are utilized:

1. Physical Exam

An initial physical exam is conducted after your physician gathers your medical history. If the physical exam indicates the possible presence of cancer, the physician will recommend additional tests. Physical exams may include the following:

1. Measuring for weakness in breathing.

2. Tapping the chest to see if there is any dullness.

3. Looking for droopy eyelids and unequal pupils.

4. Checking for a swollen face.

5. Feeling for swollen lymph nodes above the collarbones.

6. Inspecting your body for expanded veins in your chest, neck, or arms.

2. Imaging Tests

This type of test involves using magnetic fields, x-rays, etc., to create pictures of what's inside the body. Imaging tests are useful to ascertain the following:

1. Cancerous areas.

2. How much the cancer has spread.

3. The effectiveness of the treatment.

4. Possible signs of relapse.

3. CT Scan

Unlike a regular x-ray, CT scans allow the study of a larger portion of your body to detect lung tumors. It can also indicate the shape, size, and position of possible tumors. Often, it is considered a more effective way to find lymph nodes containing cancer.

4. MRI Scan

MRI Scans use strong magnets and radio waves to detect if cancer has spread to the spinal cord or brain.

5. PET Scan

PET scans involve the insertion of FDG, a radioactive type of sugar, into the blood. It is much more effective when combined with a CT scan. Physicians utilize the detailed CT scan pictures to compare high radioactivity areas, on the PET scan.

6. Bone Scan

A bone scan consists of injecting a low-level radioactive material, which collects in the bone's abnormal areas. It helps detect the spread of cancer to the bones.


Tests for Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Based on the lung cancer symptoms, the following tests are also used to diagnose cancer:

1. Sputum Cytology

When one coughs up mucus from the lungs (also known as sputum), it is examined in the lab to check for cancer cells. It is utilized to determine the origin of cancers in the lung’s major airways.

2. Thoracentesis

Thoracentesis is a way to determine if the fluid gathered around the lungs is related to cancer. It involves the insertion of a needle between the ribs to extract the fluid.

3. Needle Biopsy

The procedure involves using a needle to extract a sample from an area the physician determines questionable. While a surgical incision is not required, the amount of tissue removed is sometimes insufficient for a proper diagnosis.

4. FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration) Biopsy

The procedure involves using a hollow, thin needle to remove aspirate cells and examine for evidence of cancer in the lymph nodes. Transtracheal FNA is carried out through a needle that is passed through the trachea wall.

5. Core Biopsy 

Core biopsy samples are more voluminous samples drawn from FNA biopsies. It involves the use of a larger needle to remove a small core of tissue.

6. Transthoracic Needle Biopsy

If the physician suspects the presence of a tumor in the lungs' outer parts, a biopsy needle is inserted through the skin. Local anesthesia may be deployed to numb the target area.

7. Ion Robot

One of the biggest wonders of technology, when it comes to detecting lung cancer early, is the ion robot. The ion robot is a relatively new platform which adopts maneuverable robotic technology to reach the previously inaccessible portions of the lungs. Higher reach implies greater accuracy and a far quicker diagnosis, resulting in better chances of early treatment.

8. Monarch

Another big breakthrough in the field of early lung cancer detection is the Auris Health Monarch platform. This is yet another new robotic technology allowing for a low invasive method to detect lung cancer. Another known name for this procedure is robotic-assisted bronchoscopy. This technology allows your surgeon to access deep areas of the lungs to collect sample tissue.


The Bottom Line

There is considerable research which indicates that smoking can elevate the chances of developing primary lung cancer. It is strongly recommended tha if you have any of the aforementioned lung cancer symptoms, report them to your primary care physiciam right away. By using early detection, he or she can assist in choosing the right treatment for increasing your chances of survival. Only then, you will be able to carefully discuss the treatment options and possible outcomes with your team of medical professionals.

Disclaimer: Please note: this blog post is provided for informational purposes and is not intended to replace the guidance of your personal physician. Please consult a medical professional if you have any concerns after reading this or other blog posts on this website.