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How is Lung Cancer Diagnosed & Treated?

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Lung cancer is a form of cancer where the cancerous cells start their growth within the lungs. Lung cancer is broken down into two types. These two types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These two types grow differently and are treated differently, which makes a proper diagnosis extremely important. Non-small lung cancer is the more common form rather than small cell lung cancer. As a provider of lung cancer treatment in NJ, we will review the different ways to diagnose and treat each form of lung cancer. 


Like other forms of cancer, both forms of lung cancer are diagnosed based on staging. Staging is the process of diagnosing cancer-based upon location and how far the cancerous cells have spread. There are numerous ways to test for lung cancer. Usually, the first test ran is a chest x-ray, which looks for abnormal areas within the lungs. If an abnormal area is spotted, the specialist will conduct more tests and studies. 

A computed tomography (CT) scan could be the next test performed. A CT scan offers more in-depth imaging of your lungs. A CT scan takes multiple images at once which has a higher chance of showing lung tumors than a routine chest x-ray. This test can identify the size, shape, and position of a lung tumor and can show if the lymph nodes show signs of the spreading of cancer. Usually, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan is combined with a CT scan to give doctors and patients the ability to perform tests simultaneously and receive more information. 

A PET scan is conducted by injecting a slightly radioactive form of sugar into the blood that gathers cancerous cells. The value of this is to identify if cancer cells are traveling from organ to organ through the bloodstream and further show how far the spreading is moving. This type of scan can also be used after diagnosis to test the effectiveness of your current treatment plan. 

A sputum cytology test can be performed which collects mucus produced and sends it to the lab to identify the presence of cancerous cells. The proper way to do this is to get multiple samples from the patient during the morning to avoid contaminants. This test is specialized and may not detect certain forms of lung cancer, but is a great way to see if cancerous cells are present in the major airways of your body. 


Both forms of lung cancer can be treated in a wide range of ways. People with non-small cell lung cancer can be treated through surgery, chemotherapy, target therapy, or a combination of treatment plans. Small cell lung cancer has fewer options to be treated with. People with this form are limited to different forms of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. A doctor who opts for surgery conducts a procedure where he removes tissue containing cancerous cells. Chemotherapy consists of using special medicines to shrink, manage, or kill cancer cells. These medicines are administered through your veins or by mouth. Radiation therapy consists of using high-energy rays to target and kill cancerous cells. 

Clinical trials are also available for certain qualifying parties but bear risk. Clinical trials are unapproved treatments that are currently being developed in the research community to beat cancer in more efficient ways. Certain requirements have to be met to qualify for clinical trials and only certain clinical trials are available. Your primary medical oncologist in NJ should be consulted before clinical trials are applied to see what has been well received within the community. The National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Health provide available clinical trials for cancerous and noncancerous diseases on their respective websites.

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