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What are the Methods of Lung Cancer Detection?

By K. Gierok
Updated May 17, 2024
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Typically, lung cancer detection is broken up into three distinct stages. First, patients are screened for symptoms of lung cancer, including shortness of breath, chest pain, and a chronic wheeze. In later lung cancer detection, patients may undergo x-rays or CT scans. A doctor may order a biopsy in an attempt to definitively confirm or deny the presence of lung cancer in the patient in question.

Typically, one of the first forms of lung cancer detection includes the observation of several signs and symptoms that are typically associated with the condition. People who suffer from lung cancer often experience high amounts of wheezing, blood in the saliva, a cough that is difficult to cure, chest pain, and significant shortness of breath. Individuals who are suffering from lung cancer may also exhibit symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, and other, less serious conditions. Finally, pneumonia, difficulty swallowing, and pain in the bones is a symptom of more advanced forms of lung cancer.

Individuals who exhibit several of the symptoms listed above or who are concerned about the presence of lung cancer will often be encouraged to receive a chest x-ray. This will provide the doctor with a detailed image of the front, back, and side views of the chest. A oncologist who specializes in lung cancer should be able to easily examine chest x-rays for the presence of lung tumors.

If the doctor has a difficult time accurately diagnosing the tumor, or wants a clearer image, he or she may request addition testing. Often, in cases where highly detailed images are required, patients are instructed to undergo a CT scan. A CT scan basically provides a 3-D image of the area being examined. It is often used as a form of confirming evidence for the presence of tumors and other life-threatening conditions.

If the patient receives a positive diagnosis based on the x-ray or CT scan, the doctor will typically recommend that a biopsy take place. While x-rays and scans are highly effective in the detection of tumors, it is very difficult to distinguish between cancerous tumors and benign tumors. Therefore, a biopsy is often done in order to determine if the tumor is, in fact, cancerous. During a biopsy, a doctor will insert a small, thin tube into the lung through the mouth. This tube is used to remove a small section of the tumor, which can be later examined in the lab for signs of cancer.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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