Should you be screened for lung cancer?

Cancer screening is testing for cancer before signs of cancer appear. This blog focuses on Lung Cancer Screening. Let’s us today learn and understand who needs to be screened and test used for screening. It also has a special guide to the screening process recommended by experts in lung cancer.

Why should I get Screened?

Screening can detect cancer early. The lungs are organs that are vital to life. They move important gases in and out of the blood. Of all cases of deaths, lung cancer ranks second highest behind heart disease. The high number of death is due in part of lung cancer being found after it has spread. Cancer Screening can help find lung cancer at an early stage when it can be cured.

How do I know if I am at risk?

Well there are various risk factors that can increase your chances of lung cancer. They could be activities that you do, the environment or genetic factors. If one or more of these risks applies to you, it doesn’t mean you will get lung cancer. Likewise, it can occur to people who have no known risk factors. Some of the known factors are:

  • Tobacco Smoking – Undoubtedly, the biggest factor for lung cancer. It also increases risk of cancer in many other areas of the body
  • Exposure to Chemicals – Like uranium, nickel, Diesel, coal smoke and so on
  • History of other cancers
  • History of lung diseases
  • Hereditary
  • Second-hand smoke – The  more contact you have with second-hand smoke, the higher your risk for lung cancer

When should I get screened?

Definitely the best time to get screened is before the symptoms appear. However, most of the times lung cancer is found after symptoms appear.  So, you must know the symptoms first.

  • Coughing that lasts
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Pneumonia
  • Hoarse Voice
  • High Pitch sound when talking
  • Pain in chest area
  • Tiredness that lasts

Must see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms to evaluate the risk.

And what if you are at high risk?

Then you must get the best screening test which is LDCT. Here’s why.

Research supports using spiral (also called helical) LDCT (low-dose computed tomography) of the chest for lung cancer screening as it is the only screening test proven to reduce the number of deaths from lung cancer. Plus the amount of radiation used is much lower than standard doses of a CT (computed tomography).

And what happens after the first test?

Learn if you have nodules – They are small round masses of tissues. They are caused by several conditions and are most often not cancer (benign). Often the use of one LDCT detects a nodule but isn’t clear whether the nodule is lung cancer. Thus the first LDCT is compared to the follow ups LDCTs to observe any sign of increase in size or density of nodules.

But if you have no nodules – Then your next LDCT should be in  1 year. And the screening must occur every year  for at least 2 years

For part –solid nodule , non-solid nodule or multiple nodule –  Repeated screening over time required with other medical investigation. May or may not require Surgery

How do you know for sure, if you have cancer?

  • Get a biopsy done
  • Surgical Marginal Examination

And what do I do next, based on the results?

If neither the Biopsy nor surgical results find cancer, keep getting screening tests. Unfortunately, if cancer is found, then you must start with the treatment.

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