Cancer detection using new diagnostic techniques



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Dr Ravindra Mehta, Head of Respiratory, Critical Care and Interventional Respiratory Medicine, Apollo Specialty Hospitals, Bangalore, talks about lung cancer and highlights diagnostic techniques

Bumps or tumors are of two types, benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). Cancer is a disease in which cells in any part of the human body can grow out of control. Malignant tissue invades other tissues and can form new tissue in a process called metastasis.

Symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer and the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Lung cancer is life threatening because it begins to show symptoms at an extremely late stage, by which it is too advanced to attempt treatment. Symptoms include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, bone pain, and unintentional weight loss. Most of these lung cancer symptoms are seen in other diseases and conditions, making it difficult to detect lung cancer at an early stage.

Cigarette smokers and tobacco users are at higher risk of developing lung cancer. According to a recent report on lung cancer in India,[1] smoking has been shown to be the main risk factor for lung cancer. Other risk factors include air pollution, exposure to radon and carcinogens, previous radiation therapy, and exposure to second-hand smoke. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Innovation[2] , about 30% of India’s adult population is exposed to passive smoking.

Prevention of lung cancer

Given the extent and dangers of this disease, it is imperative that people remain vigilant and aware of the symptoms. We need to reduce risk factors like smoking, exposure to harmful gases and second-hand smoke. It is advisable to have regular check-ups and screenings for people at high risk and to be aware of the symptoms of lung cancer. If detected at an early stage, death rates associated with lung cancer can be reduced.

It is recommended that people with the following conditions undergo regular screenings:

  • If you are a smoker or have smoked in the past
  • If there is a family history of lung cancer

Lung cancer diagnostic techniques

Various screening techniques have been developed in recent times to detect cancer at an early stage:

  • Chest x-rays are the most basic form of screening and are followed by a CT scan if needed.
  • In Western societies, high-risk patients such as chronic smokers are screened with periodic low-dose (safe) CT scans.
  • In people with X-ray or CT abnormalities, a high-end cancer scanner called a “PET scan” can help differentiate cancerous and non-cancerous tissue.
  • Since any cancer diagnosis requires tissue, a procedure called bronchoscopy in which a thin tube is inserted into the airways under light anesthesia is needed. Newer technology allows the visualization and biopsy of cancerous glands and suspicious tumors with a tiny ultrasound built into the endoscope called EBUS (endobronchial ultrasound). These EBUS-guided biopsies are another effective method of determining whether a tumor in the body is benign or malignant.
  • These minimally invasive EBUS-guided biopsies were made more successful by sampling products such as “Acquire Pulmonary Endobronchial Ultrasound Transbronchial Aspiration Needles”. These allow for quick sampling and help get accurate results.

Advances in medical technology offer us new avenues for diagnosing problems at an early stage, which is the key to successful therapy. Regular examinations and screening of people at high risk for lung cancer, such as smokers, can detect cancer at an early stage and improve outcomes.

Indeed, a combination of knowledge, understanding and technology used in the right way can make a difference in the approach and outcome of lung cancer – when it comes to this disease, really ‘a dot in. time saves nine ”.

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