Current medical opinion holds that early screening options for cancer are invariably beneficial. Early detection of cancer consistently yields better treatment plans, outcomes, and overall survival rates. Five-year mortality rates in those diagnosed with non-metastatic cancer, which entails the cancer is still localized, began at 48% higher than those who were diagnosed later. Late-stage cancer is associated with a more distal spread, and is much harder to treat and cure.
Unfortunately, lung cancer has still not received an approved early-screening test. This does not mean that early screening tests are unavailable. However, early detection that is available does not favorably impact the survival rates of lung cancer patients. Early detection tests fail in this regard due to their inability to detect early, localized lung cancer. Continual research into early lung cancer screenings hopes to address these problems and improve mortality rates.
Much of the lung cancer that is detected is only done so at later stages. Typical symptoms of late-stage lung cancer include blood in mucus, changes in one’s voice, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, or continual chest pain. Early-stage lung cancer has few symptoms, if any. Later-stage lung cancer is often well past localized tumors. Lung cancer is notorious for its metastatic properties due to the limited screening methods available.
The currently accepted practice for early detection of lung cancer requires an assessment of risk. Those at high risk of developing lung cancer are highly recommended to seek early detection tests. Lung cancer risk increases due to:
Some medical professionals believe that early lung cancer screenings are excessive and may do more harm than good. Lung cancer biopsies have the potential to collapse a lung, for instance. Other doctors believe that older patients may not even experience any lung cancer symptoms before succumbing to other diseases. The risk of false positives is also high in current screening techniques. Oncologists recognize that many early detection methods mistake scar tissue and benign growths as malignant tumors.
Lung cancer screening methods are currently limited to:
The above screenings each have their faults, whether they be a high incidence of false positives or a low incidence of successful diagnosis. The currently accepted combination-screening method for lung cancer involves spiral computerized tomography combined with a chest X-ray.