Most lung cancers are discovered too late.

Diagnostic Tools

Current methods for detecting lung cancer include chest x-ray, PET or CT scan, sputum cytology, biomarker testing, and a lung tissue biopsy. Some tools are used in combination for a more accurate assessment of the disease. Please talk to your physician regarding each method.

Chest X-Ray
Uses a beam of radiation to create an image of the area being examined.
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CT (Computed Tomography)
Emits a series of radiation to provide a more detailed picture of on an area being examined. Learn More


PET (Positron Emission Tomography)
Uses radioactive drug tracer to show organ activity. Learn More

Sputum
Sputum from a cough is examined under a microscope for lung cancer cells.
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Biomarkers
Genetic or protein biomarkers in conjunction with algorithms or levels are analyzed to look for indications of cancer. 
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Biopsy
Tissue samples are collected via bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy, or a needle which is examined under a microscope. Learn More

USPSTF Recommends CT Scans

In 2010, the NLST published its result of looking at over 53,454 patients that were divided into the CT and X-ray group to look at its efficacy in detecting lung cancer. The conclusion was that CT saves 20% more lives than X-rays. This study led to a recommendation from the USPSTF to use LCDT as a screening method for high risk patients which led to a coverage and implementation by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. To learn more about the study results, click on: Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed Tomographic Screening by the NLST Research Team.

Medicare/Medicaid Covers CT Scans

In 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) agreed to cover an annual lung cancer screening using Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) if the patient meets the following criteria:

  • they are age 55-77, and are either current smokers or have quit smoking within the last 15 years;
  • they have a tobacco smoking history of at least 30 "pack years" (an average of one pack a day for 30 years); and
  • they receive a written order from a physician or qualified non-physician practitioner that meets certain requirements
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