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"Can a CT scan of the lungs detect lung cancer?"

ZocdocAnswersCan a CT scan of the lungs detect lung cancer?

Question

I have been coughing nonstop and they are performing a CT scan of my lungs in six days. Will this detect lung cancer. I've been smoking for 20 years and am now 39.

Answer

CT scans are often used to obtain finer detail of the lungs (and other organs) after they are initially viewed with an x-ray. CT scans use the same technology and radiation as an x-ray, but create very detailed images by piecing together x-rays taken only a few millimeters apart. The entire process of obtaining the images only takes a minute. Sometimes IV contrast is administered while the images are being obtained, as this can help radiologists define certain structures and pathology. CT scans are very sensitive in detecting lung cancers, and are the most common way in which cancers are diagnosed in the lungs. If a mass is seen on the imaging, however, it generally needs to be sampled with a biopsy before any further action is taken; this can be done through a bronchoscopy if it is close to a major airway, or through the skin under guidance of imaging.

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