Diagnostic Tests for Lung Cancer Screening

Low-Dose Helical CT Scans Provide More Detailed Imaging

Lung cancer is a difficult condition to diagnose. By the time symptoms appear, it may have become advanced and more difficult to treat. When diagnosed early, it is usually as a result of other diagnostic tests that have been conducted to rule out heart disease, pneumonia, or other lung conditions. Through clinical trials, a lung cancer screening test has recently been developed that may help lower the risk of dying prematurely.

A clinical trial that tested a type of low-dose CT scan, also known as a low-dose spiral or helical CT, provided more detailed images and was better able to find small abnormalities in the lungs. In addition, the low-dose CT used lower amounts of radiation than a standard chest CT and did not require an intravenous contrast dye.

After a thorough review of the lung cancer screening clinical trial, the American Cancer Society has issued guidelines aimed at doctors and other health care providers with regard to screening patients for lung cancer.

Patients should be asked about their history of smoking and, if they meet the following criteria, may be candidates for a lung cancer screening:

  • Are between 55 to 75 years of ages
  • In fairly good health with no symptoms of lung cancer
  • Have a history of smoking a pack a day for 30 years or more
  • Is an active smoker or has quit smoking within the past 15 years

    Screening will not necessarily find all lung cancers. And, even if lung cancer is found during a screening, it may not extend your life span. You should note that screening is not a good alternative to quitting smoking. If you currently smoke you should know about your risk of developing lung cancer and join a smoking cessation program.


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