Which Scan Is Best To Detect Lung Cancer?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Computed Tomography (CT), Ultrasound (US), and sometimes, PET-CT combined, PET-MRI, and multiple more scans are prevalent in lung cancer detection today!
However, when it comes to the broader question of which scan is best to detect lung cancer, the common and quick CT scan, and the latest Low-Dose CT scans are the top picks by doctors.
A Low-Dose CT scan certainly sets an edge over a traditional CT scan because the radiation exposure is 90% less now, and the radiation risks get reduced. They are known for screening cancerous growth in your lungs at its early stage and aid in early treatment.
What are CT Scan and Low-Dose CT Scans & How Do They Work?
A CT scan is the most common test for lung cancer detection. It involves several X-rays from different angles, scanning your internal lung anatomy with precision and dexterity. A CT scan takes nearly 30 minutes to complete and is available in all healthcare centers.
A Low-Dose CT is nothing but an advanced CT modality, serving lung cancer diagnosis at its best! The process uses different angled X-rays to create images of your lung anatomy and look for cancerous growth or other lung abnormalities. It is, of course, a non-invasive and painless process like a traditional CT and does involve radiation. But the radiation dosage is extremely low this time.
Low-Dose CTs are either spiral or helictical in type. They take a series of three-dimensional X-ray images of your lungs. They are quicker than traditional CTs, taking a maximum of 15 minutes to get a scan done. A low-dose CT neither involves dye nor injections or oral administration.
During the scan, a radiology team comes in to assist. This team of caregivers includes a radio oncologist, a radiology technician, and other medical staff. When you enter the test lab, you see a table right in front of the CT scanner. It is where you have to lie down and stay still in one position until instructed otherwise.
You may also get asked to hold your breath and help avoid blurring in the CT images. While the scan takes place, with the spiral, see-through scanner rotating around your body, you may hear a whirring sound. After the scan gets done, you can return to your house or work. The reports take around one week to come.
Why Do Doctors Recommend A CT or A Low-Dose CT Scan For Lung Cancer Screening?
Doctors recommend a traditional or low-dose CT scan for lung cancer screening because of a myriad of reasons, and they are following.
- A CT or Low-Dose CT scan can identify whether a lesion growing in or around your lungs is cancerous or benign.
- Both low-Dose CTs and standard CTs are efficient in showing how big lung cancer is and where it is exactly positioned.
- Doctors avail of CT or Low-dose CT scans to look for the lung cancer spread (called metastasis in medical terms) and thereby evaluate the cancer stage.
- Low-Dose CTs are the only recommended imaging test by the Center For Disease Control and Prevention for early lung cancer screening. Perhaps, the earlier cancer gets detected, the lower the chance of mortality (or death)!
- Doctors can accurately differentiate between lung cancer and other lung abnormalities, be it an inflammation, infection or chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, congenital conditions, and more, via CT or Low-dose CT scan.
- Low-dose and/or Standard CT scans can effectively trace any recurring episode of cancer development and their restaging.
- Many times, CTs and low-dose CTs rule out the requirement of an open biopsy invasion with their detailed imaging.
- Likewise, a low-dose CT scan is crucial in guiding the needle in a biopsy to collect cancerous cell/tissue samples.
- A low-dose CT scan can help doctors plan lung cancer therapy, whether chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery, and even check their response.
- Your doctor may also prefer using Low-Dose CTs as a part of the routine lung cancer check-up to leave no room for left-over cancerous scar tissue in the lungs after a treatment course.
How Accurate Are Low-Dose CT Scans Vs. Traditional CT Scans in Detecting Lung Cancers? – A Deep Dive!
When it comes to which scan is best to detect lung cancer, a low-dose CT scan is the most plausible doctor’s choice because of the nominal radiation exposure. But CT scans make their threshold with their accuracy in lung cancer detection. Neither CT nor Low-dose CT scans are cent percent accurate! Yet, they are salient in their ways.
Studies at Stanford show us that low-dose CT diagnosis of lung cancer offers a 20% mortality reduction rate among cancer patients with high risks. It means a low-dose CT scan is the best solution for aged people with lung cancers, like those from the 50s to 80s.
But, they do have a false predictive rate, which can bring heavy distress to the patient and their family because of the overdiagnosis. According to Healthline, a 2021 study by the US Preventive Service Task Force reveals that a low-dose CT scan holds a 9.6 to 28.9% false predictive rate during the initial baseline testing for lung cancer.
On the other hand, a CT scan reserves about 56 to 89% accuracy in diagnosing lung cancers, says a study by National Institute For Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Studies also tell us that a CT scan can diagnose lung cancers at their early stage in about 70% of patients.
A CT scan also boosts accuracy in diagnosing metastatic lung cancer spreading to the lymph nodes. However, an MRI scan, also a PET/CT or PET/MRI, is more accurate in this regard!
So, the bottom line is which scan is best to detect lung cancer is an ambiguous answer, even though CTs or Low-dose CTs are great methods to detect lung cancers in the preliminary stage. Your doctor may even rely on the expensive and less-accessible MRI scan to ensure greater imaging clarity and finds it best for your case.
Make sure you consult with your doctor and do as said!