Lung cancer is the second-most common type of cancer, and the earlier it’s diagnosed, the better the outlook tends to be. But most people with lung cancer don’t know they have it until the disease has spread outside their lungs.

Screening tests such as medical scans can help detect lung cancer, but they come with inherent risks and are only recommended for people at high risk of lung cancer.

Researchers are working on a blood test that can detect lung cancer before it becomes a problem.

In this article, we look at how a blood test for lung cancer might work and how it is different from the diagnostic tools available today.

When your doctor suspects you have lung cancer, you should have an image test. There are many ways to see inside of your body with an imager.

Imaging tests for lung cancer

Imaging tests that a doctor might order to check for lung cancer include any of the following:

  • A chest X-ray can look for masses in or around your lungs.
  • A CT scan is more detailed than an x-ray and creates cross-sectional images of your body.
  • An MRI scan can also be used to look for cancer, but in the case of lung cancer, it’s usually used to see whether it’s spreading.
  • A PET scan uses dye to look for cancer cells and can help determine where cancer is spreading.
  • A bone scan is specifically good at finding cancer that has spread to your bones.

Diagnostic tests for lung cancer

If the tests show that you have lung cancer, you will be tested for it with a diagnostic test. The tests involve taking a sample from your body and examining it. Diagnostic tests for lung cancer can be done.

  • A sputum cytology examines material such as mucus that has been coughed up from your lungs.
  • A thoracentesis is a test that involves a doctor taking a sample of fluid from around your lungs using a special needle that goes between your ribs.
  • A needle biopsy is similar to a thoracentesis, but a small piece of tissue is taken instead of fluid.
  • A bronchoscopy is a procedure where a doctor inserts a special tube down your airway to look at your lungs or take a tissue sample from your bronchi.

The allure of blood tests for lung cancer diagnosis and screening

A blood test for lung cancer is not yet available, but it would help speed up diagnosis. Lung cancer blood tests can be used to determine if you have the disease.

  • What type of lung cancer do you have?
  • How will the treatment affect the disease?
  • Your long-term outlook.

Researchers are looking for ways to detect lung cancer before it starts.

Doctors use biomarkers to objectively measure your health. In the case of lung cancer, antibodies, protein, and abnormal DNA are shed from cancer cells, which may likely be used for lung cancer screening.

Benefits of blood tests for lung cancer

There are many benefits to using blood samples.

Blood testing is a well-established procedure. There are many laboratories that can administer blood tests. A blood sample can be taken for testing. drugstores can take blood samples

It is a procedure that requires very little hassle for most people. A blood sample can be taken in a few minutes with no side effects and without the need for anesthesia, dyes, or machines.

Current research into developing a lung cancer blood test is encouraging, but more work is still needed to validate the results. We will probably not see routine lung cancer blood tests for at least a few years.

“When you don’t have any symptoms or have a history of lung cancer, you should be screened for it.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a nongovernmental advisory group made up of experts in disease prevention. Their recommendation is that early screening for lung cancer should be limited to people at high risk of lung cancer. Specifically, this means current and former smokers between the ages of 50 and 80.

“You might think that everyone should be screened. There aren’t any lung cancer tests that are completely free of risks.”

“A low dose computed tomography (LDCT) is the most common screening tool for people who aren’t showing any signs of lung cancer. People with a high risk of lung cancer should have these scans done annually. You will be exposed to a small amount of radiation if you have one of these scans.”

The radiation exposure of an LDCT scans is small, but not zero. Only a select group of people are recommended for annual LDCT scans.

Does lung cancer show up in routine blood work?

Experts are looking at whether your blood contains lung cancer markers. Lung cancer is not something that a blood test can accurately diagnose.

At what stage is lung cancer most commonly diagnosed?

Lung cancer is usually diagnosed after it’s distantly spread throughout the body. But the rate of late stage diagnoses for lung cancer has been dropping over the past 20 years, partly due to the adoption of LDCT screenings.

What are survival rates for early/late diagnosis?

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate is very different depending on how early the cancer is detected.

  • The 5-year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer is 64 percent if it is diagnosed before it spreads outside the lungs.
  • The 5-year survival rate is 37 percent when lung cancer has spread to nearby structures or the lymph nodes.
  • The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body is 8 percent.

What are the early symptoms of lung cancer?

The symptoms of lung cancer are similar to other conditions, but not all of them are cancer. If you suspect you have lung cancer, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Early symptoms often include:

Lung cancer is not currently being screened for in the blood tests. Many types of blood markers can be used to indicate lung cancer.

If you meet the qualifications, you can get an annual LDCT Scan if you have a lung cancer outlook. If you smoke, you may want to stop.

Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of lung cancer or even improve your outlook if you already have cancer.