lung cancer

Diagnosing Lung Cancer Early

Here are the common ways of diagnosing lung cancer and why early diagnosis increases the chances of survival for patients who have this disease

Lung cancer is the fastest-growing smoking-related disease in the world, it is also fastest-growing cancer with almost a million+ people being diagnosed every year around the world. This kind of growth is cause for alarm, to be sure, but even more alarming is the fact that symptoms do not usually occur to suggest lung cancer until it has progressed beyond a surgically treatable option. When it comes to diagnosing lung cancer there are many options. However, until a doctor has reason to believe that a patient has this disease, there is seldom a reason to run any of these tests creating a situation where the disease has to progress substantially before a diagnosis is made.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

The most common way of diagnosing lung cancer is via a chest x-ray. Generally, the chest x-ray is ordered to determine the cause of pneumonia which often results in the discovery of this disease, especially in the case of recurring pneumonia in the same section of the lungs. While this is a good way to diagnose cancer, the x-ray is not infallible and can only see masses in front of bones, not behind, so it is not 100% accurate in its diagnosis.

Another common, but less common than x-ray, way for diagnosing lung cancer is with a CT or more commonly known CAT scan. This scan allows doctors to see the smaller masses that an x-ray simply cannot see. The CAT scan is a better technology for this discovery, however, it is also more expensive so it is not used without a good cause. The CAT scan can also help doctors determine how far cancer has spread, and to where.

PET scans and MRI's are excellent ways to check for cancer, however, once again, they are not generally used for the diagnosis of lung cancer, instead, they are used to determine the spread of the disease and a PET scan can help doctors establish the number of cancerous tumors a person has in their body because of a special sugar injected into the body.

Taking a Biopsy

Once tumors are found on a person's lungs or throughout the body, diagnosing lung cancer becomes a matter of taking a biopsy. A biopsy is the removal of some of the suspected tissue from the person's body. It is then observed under a microscope to determine if it is a cancerous mass and if it is, what kind of cancer it might be.

The sooner it is diagnosed the better the prognosis for the patient. It is important for anyone who has been exposed to cancer-causing agents or who smoke to have themselves checked out for cancer whether they have symptoms or not. If they wait until symptoms it might be too late.

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Additional Lung Cancer Resources

Additional resources for lung cancer can be found at cancer.org, Healthline, lung.org, and the mayo clinic.

Cancer Treatment FAQ's can be found on our site here. 

Next Steps

You can start your online assessment here. Our online cancer connector is available if you are a patient recently diagnosed with lung cancer,  a caregiver caring for a cancer patient, or exploring options for a second opinion. If you have not been diagnosed but suspect you may have lung cancer please make an appointment to see your local general practitioner to arrange to have a diagnosis.  If you have any questions and wish to speak or communicate with a patient navigator please make an inquiry here. 


Rachel Rowling

Rachel has over 25 years of experience in medical tourism and international IT/Technology/Innovation leadership working for Fortune 500 companies as well as startup companies. She is a regular article contributor to healthcare transparency and digital health innovation.