Early detection: Catching lung cancer when it’s treatable

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When it comes to any cancer, catching it early can make a world of difference in how oncologists can treat it.

And with lung cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States, the only test to detect it early is a low-dose CT lung cancer screening.

“It’s basically, it’s just like an X-ray machine, but it takes a 360-degree image of the patient while they're lying flat on a board,” said Dr. Victor Gordon, a pulmonologist and medical director of pulmonary rehabilitation at McLaren Macomb. “We use a lot less radiation in performing the test, thus the name. It gives us about a 25 percent more visualization of the lung fields than a standardized chest X-ray could.”

Able to catch the cancer before it even begins to cause symptoms, the lung cancer screening can catch the cancer while it’s still in its earliest stages, when it’s most treatable.

“Unfortunately, symptomatic lung cancer still portends a very poor prognosis,” Dr. Gordon said. “Today we do have a low dose CT screening. That is something that we have been able to recognize earlier lung cancers. About half the patients that do undergo a low dose CT screening will be diagnosed in an early stage or stage one condition. This allows them to be treated and many of them even cured of lung cancer.”

Along with smokers, Dr. Gordon has seen a rise in lung cancer in non-smokers. He suggests having a conversation with your primary care physician to discuss risk factors and if they recommend a screening.