Lung cancer starts when cells within the lungs begin growing too rapidly. As the cells continue their rapid growth, they may develop into a tumor. In some cases, the cancerous cells spread to other areas, as well. Lung cancer is strongly correlated with cigarette smoking and tobacco use.
People who are, or have been, heavy smokers are at the highest risk for lung cancer. Older people are more likely to develop lung cancer than younger people, primarily due to the longer period of smoking. Doctors typically measure this in terms of “pack-years” of smoking history (the amount of packs smoked per day multiplied by the patient’s years of smoking history.)
Lung cancer screenings are done to find the disease earlier than it would otherwise be found. Lung cancer is often highly developed before it is ever diagnosed, so it is very important to be proactive about screenings if a patient falls into a lung cancer risk group. Earlier detection allows for earlier treatment, so lung cancer screening is an excellent preventive action.
Lung cancer screenings are usually recommended for people between 50 and 80 years of age who smoke or who have smoked heavily in the past 15 years. Heavy smoking is characterized as a one pack per day or more habit. Lung cancer screenings are also recommended for people who are not experiencing any symptoms and for people who have no history of lung disease if they meet these qualifications, as they are in the highest risk group.
Lung cancer screening is done via a low-dose computed tomography scan. During this test, the patient will remain still while the X-ray machine moves over the body to take high-resolution images of the lungs. These images can then be studied by the pulmonologist so they can determine whether there are any early signs of lung cancer present.
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