Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related deaths worldwide, and is fast emerging as one of the most common cancers in India as well. It does not cause any symptoms in early stages. Early detection could decrease the chances of dying from lung cancers in current and former smokers.
WHAT IS LUNG CANCER SCREENING?
“SCREENING” is looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms. This can help find cancer at an early stage, when it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may have already begun to spread. It is important to remember that a person undergoing a screening test does not necessarily have cancer, they are just at a higher than usual risk to develop one.
Out of the multiple modalities evaluated, scientists have found “LOW DOSE COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY” or “LDCT” of the chest to be better than other other techniques, such as chest x ray and sputum studies at finding early stage lung cancer. It is painless, non-invasive and only takes a few minutes.
IS LUNG CANCER SCREENING RIGHT FOR YOU?
Screening with LDCT has been found to be most suitable for heavy smokers, between 50 to 80 years of age, who are still smoking or have quit within the last 15 years, and are within reasonably good health. Consult an oncologist, to know if you would benefit from undergoing a regular LDCT scan to identify the disease early.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS INVOLVED?
An LDCT scan tries to reduce the “radiation exposure” to any person as much as possible, without compromising its purpose to look for any abnormalities in the chest. It uses upto 90% less ionising radiation than a conventional CT scan of the chest. Screening may not improve your health or help you live longer if you are incidentally detected with disease that has already spread to other places in your body. On the other hand, we may find a disease that would never have caused symptoms or become life threatening. This is called “OVERDIAGNOSIS”. A “FALSE POSITIVE”, one that shows there is cancer, when there really isn’t, can cause anxiety and is usually followed by more tests, such as a biopsy, which have their own inherent risks. A “FALSE NEGATIVE” result may delay seeking medical care even if there are symptoms.
Even if your results are normal, you should still stop smoking. The best way to reduce your risk of developing lung cancer is to quit smoking. Smoking cessation is an integral part of our Lung Cancer Screening Programme, and can assist you in taking the right steps towards a smoke free life.