Research indicates that long-term exposure to inhaled carcinogens, most commonly tobacco smoke, is the factor with the greatest impact o the risk of lung cancer.
A significant statistic of lung cancers are smoking related and research has also demonstrated a link between passive smoking and lung cancer. An individual’s risk of developing lung cancer is significantly reduced if they quit smoking.
Detecting lung cancer in the early stages is critical to increasing the chances of survival. A range of tests are used to detect and diagnose lung cancer. Physicians use information from the tests to determine the type and stage of the cancer and the best way to treat it.?
These tests include:
Sophisticated imaging scans
Physical examination – swollen lymph nodes in the neck or collarbone area, sputum samples and changes on the tissue of the nail beds may indicate lung disease
Chest examination – abnormal breathing sounds are examined whilst listening to the lungs with a stethoscope
Chest X-ray – back, front and side of chest X-rays are taken to identify enlarged lymph nodes in the chest or abnormal growths in lungs
CT scan – Computerised Axial Tomography - uses a computer to generate cross-sectional views of the body from a series of X-ray images to see whether the lymph nodes are enlarged. CT scans are more sensitive than standard chest X-rays and can detect location and size of the cancer, however they also expose the patient to a small amount of radiation and the patient may have an adverse reaction to the intravenous contrast material given prior to the procedure
PET scan – Positron Emission Tomography – a specialized imaging technique which uses radioactive substances to measure metabolic activity. PET scans can find cancerous tumors because of their ability to absorb radioactive sugar
MRI – Magnetic Resonance Imaging – scans indicate precise details about the location of a tumor. Similar to X-rays but uses a magnetic field and radio waves to stimulate hydrogen ions and to create an image of the chest to define the location and extent of lung damage. There are no know side effects of MRI scanning and there is no exposure to radiation.
Sputum cytology – examined under microscopes to check for abnormal or cancerous cells. The most risk-free and inexpensive tissue diagnostic procedure. However tumor cells will not always be present in sputum, even when a cancer does exist
Bronchoscopy – a pulmonologist performs a visual examination using a hollow fibre-optic tube which is passed through the nose and throat into the main airway of the lungs. If a bronchoscopy is negative a needle biopsy may be performed
Biopsy – Obtained in a number of different ways; through a bronchoscopy, by inserting a needle through the chest into the lung (Fine Needle Aspiration, FNA), by removal and examination of an enlarged lymph node or by a small surgery on the lung. A lung tissue sample is then examined on a glass slide under a microscope for analysis
Bone scan – a small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones, especially in abnormal areas, for instance areas with matastatic tumors. A scanner is then used to create images of bones on a computer screen to observe if a lung cancer has metastasised to the bones. Metastasis is the process in which cancer cells move away from the original tumor and grow within other parts of the body
CT / PET fusion imaging – combines the results of CT scan technology with PET technology to provide more complete diagnostic information.