Dr Chris discusses CT scans detecting lung cancer

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As the cancerous tumour amasses in size, the sound of your voice might begin to change. According to Macmillan Cancer Support – a charity dedicated to raising awareness of the disease – any prolonged hoarseness is troublesome. A hoarse voice that lingers for three weeks or more needs to brought to the attention of your GP. This is also true if a cough begins to linger for three weeks or more, or a recurrent cough you already have starts to change.

Other possible indications of lung cancer can include coughing up blood, feeling breathless and wheezy for no apparent reason, and recurrent chest infections.

Another symptom of lung cancer includes chest or shoulder pain that doesn’t get better.

Macmillan added that weight loss – that can’t be explained by dietary changes or an increase in physical exercise – may also be a warning sign.

So too can a feeling of fatigue that can’t be explained by shift work, lack of sleep, or strenuous emotional or physical causes.

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While some of these symptoms can be caused by other lung conditions, it’s best to get them checked over by your doctor.

If lung cancer is suspected by your GP, they will arrange a chest X-ray and/or a CT scan.

Should the scans reveal any abnormalities on the lungs, you will be referred to a specialist within two weeks.

Further testing might include a PET-CT scan (a series of X-rays to build up a 3D picture) and/or a biopsy.

A biopsy involves a collection of cells or tissues from the lung or nearby lymph nodes.

The biopsy samples are then checked under a microscope to identify any cancer cells.

Should cancer be identified, more testing can help establish the stage of lung cancer, which would inform treatment options.

Lung cancer stages

Stage 1 lung cancer

“This is when the cancer is no bigger than 4cm,” Macmillan made clear. “It has not spread outside the lung or to any lymph nodes.”

Stage 2 lung cancer

While the cancer can be different sizes at this stage, it may have spread to:

  • Other parts of the lung
  • Areas just outside of the lung
  • Nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 3 lung cancer

This is when the cancer has usually spread to the lymph nodes, and might be growing in the airways, areas surrounding the lung, or other parts of the lung.

Stage 4 lung cancer

Again, the cancer can be any size at stage 4 lung cancer, but it’s possible it could have spread to the lung on the other side.

Moreover, in stage 4 lung cancer, there might be cancer cells in fluid in the pleura, or around the heart.

Alternatively, cancer has spread to another part of the body, such as the liver, bones, or brain.

Treatment options might involve surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy drugs, or a combination of these options.

The specialist will discuss with you the best treatment options based on your individual case.

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