Screening for Lung CancerEn Español (Spanish Version)
The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.
A chest x-ray can show the presence of an unsuspected tumor, but has not been generally recommended as a screening test for lung cancer. A CT scan can identify smaller tumors than a chest x-ray can. A CT scan is a series of x-rays put together by a computer to create images of the lung. A special spiral or helical low dose CT scan may identify smaller tumors than a regular x-ray. Several studies done in the past have not shown screening chest x-rays or sputum collection to result in earlier diagnoses of lung cancer. Screening studies are being performed with CT scans to see if these will ultimately change the outcome of lung cancer.
There are currently no screening guidelines for lung cancer. Doctors do not know if screening with the new type of CT scan will save lives, so the use of this test is still under investigation. It is not yet recommended as a screening tool.
American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/home/index.asp .
American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/site/pp.asp?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=22542 .
National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/ .
Last reviewed February 2007 by Barbara Harty-Golder, MD, JD
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