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How is screening for lung cancer done?

Currently, there are no blood tests that can diagnose lung cancer. Researchers have tried examining sputum or phlegm for tumor cells (it did not work) and are currently trying to analyze exhaled air in hopes of identifying minute traces of biochemicals that might be given off by tumors of the airway. This "tumor breathalyzer" approach, though promising, is entirely unproven.

The current approach utilized in ongoing studies is to perform a low dose chest CT (computed tomography) scan. Low dose (that is reduced radiation) CT scans are used for screening only in high risk patients to minimize radiation exposure to otherwise healthy patients. Several large randomized clinical trials are in progress in both the US and Europe to examine the benefit of low dose screening chest CT scans in older patients with smoking exposure. The largest trial is a US trial called the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which enrolled over 53,000 patients from 2002 to 2004 in a low dose CT screening trial. The results are expected in the next year or two.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.