Here’s what to know about diagnosing lung cancer as early as possible.
There has been a lot of research, and controversy, about whether or not there are effective measures to detect lung cancer early. In this video, Dr. Abraham Chachoua, the Jay and Isabel Fine Professor of Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, explains what types of screening tests are available for the early detection of lung cancer.
First, Dr. Chachoua explains that screening tests are recommended for heavy smokers, but these tests can also be widely used by non-smokers as well. The difficult part about detecting lung cancer is that it can be present without any symptoms at the moment. An early-detected lung cancer patient can look well and feel well but show no physical signs of having lung cancer. Screening tests are recommended for people who have a family history of lung cancer as well.
Unfortunately, a lot of lung cancers present themselves at an advanced stage. In order to make a diagnosis for cancer the patient needs to be scanned through a CT Scan, PET Scan, and/or an MRI. After these scanning tests come a biopsy, which can be done using different methods depending on the location of the suspected cancer.
For a lung biopsy, a direct needle biopsy is performed or a bronchoscopy. The standard screening test for a heavy smoker is the CT Scan.
Dr. Chachoua recommends screening be done in a hospital that has an NCI-Designated Cancer Center, with a radiologist who has the equipment needed to perform these screening tests.
Dr. Chachoua is an oncologist at NYU Langone Health who specializes in treating cancers of the lung and chest.
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Lung cancer screening is very popular
based on this large study that showed that
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screening is a good thing
particularly in heavy smokers.
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One presentation of lung cancer
is a person who feels well,
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looks well but has a history of smoking,
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gets a CAT scan, they find a nodule in
the lung that turns out to be cancer.
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Unfortunately, a lot of lung cancers
present in an advanced stage.
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How do you make a diagnosis?
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Usually, you would require some scanning.
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There are several types of scans that
we put patients through, CAT scans,
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PET scans, MRIs and
then eventually, a biopsy.
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There are various ways to do
biopsies depending on the location.
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If I wanted to biopsy a lung, for
example, I can do a direct needle biopsy.
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Not me, but a radiologist that's
done under CAT scan control.
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They can localize exactly where
the tumor is and stick a needle in it.
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Or he can do a bronchoscopy, where the
patients is sedated and a pulmonary doctor
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puts a scope in the back of the throat
down to the lung and takes a sample.
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But right now CT scan for
a heavy smoker is the standard.
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But how do you find out
where to get your scans?
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I think in general you should
go to a teaching hospital and
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a hospital that has a NCI funded
designated cancer center and this is where
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you're gonna find the radiologist and
the equipment or the expertise to do this.
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Diagnosing and Treating Lung Cancer. Chicago, IL: American Lung Association, 2015. (Accessed on Sept. 28, 2015 at http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/diagnosing-and-treating/.)
Lung Cancer-Patient Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute, 2015. (Accessed on Sept. 28, 2015 at http://www.cancer.gov/types/lung/.)
Lung Cancer: What Screening Tests are there? Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018 (Accessed July 9, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/screening.htm)
What Are the Risk Factors for Lung Cancer? Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. (Accessed on Sept. 28, 2015 at http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm.)