Lung Cancer Tests: How Doctors Screen for Lung Cancer

Here's what to know about diagnosing lung cancer as early as possible.

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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.