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Lung Cancer Screening Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are All Lung Nodules Cancer?

No. In fact, the vast majority are not. Nodules are especially common in patients from the Midwest. However, the small percent that are cancer need evaluation. An experienced team can help direct a proper evaluation and sort out benign from malignant.

If You See a Nodule, What Happens Next?

The CT scan is reviewed and you are managed by an experienced team. The appearance of the nodule coupled with an analysis of your risk factors for cancer is then done to decide on next steps. These steps range from closely following the nodule for change over time by additional CT scans, to other types of imaging, to sampling the finding, to even removing the nodule by surgery. The goal is to do the least invasive test or treatment needed that provides the most benefit for you. Our institution has a special focus on minimally invasive tests and treatments.

Does Exposure to Air During Surgery Cause the Lung Tumor to Spread? 

No.  Surgery helps remove the tumor from your lung, and does not cause it to spread. 

What are the Different Types of Lung Cancers? 

There are three main types of lung cancer.  Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common (about 85% of lung cancers) and includes squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.  Small cell lung cancer (also called oat cell cancer) accounts for 10-15% of lung cancers.  Lung carcinoid tumors (also called lung neuroendocrine tumors) account for less than 5% of lung cancers.

What About Genetic Tests? 

Genotyping (also called molecular fingerprinting) is a new technique that determines which genetic mutations (changes in the DNA) are carried by a patient's lung cancer.  Depending on results, the tumor may be treated with targeted therapies, personalized for the patient's tumor.  However, at the present time, targeted therapy is only available for a small subset of lung cancers.

Are Only Smokers Affected by Lung Cancer?

No, growing numbers of non-smokers are also diagnosed with lung cancer.  However, low-dose CT screening is not recommended in non-smokers, as risks (such as radiation exposure) outweigh benefits.