Screening for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer. Just hearing those words sends chills down many people’s spines. This disease has become something people hear more and more about thanks to advanced diagnostic techniques as well as breakthroughs in treatment.

Lung cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in your lungs. These cells grow quickly and turn into tumors, which eventually impacts breathing, blood flow, and overall function of the lungs. When it reaches a point of no return, lung cancer can kill a person.

This type of cancer is most commonly caused by toxins like secondhand smoke, smoking, and family history and genetics.

Detection of Lung Cancer

Most people don’t seek treatment or go to the doctor unless they start to exhibit symptoms that clearly indicate something is wrong. This might include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, difficulty bleeding, chest pain, and weight loss.

Oftentimes, by the time a person is experiencing these symptoms, they’ve reached a point where they must get treatment.

Why is a Lung Cancer Screen Performed?

A screening is performed when a person is showing symptoms of lung cancer and the doctor feels further inspection is necessary. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the treatment options and prognosis for a cure.

Dr. McKenna might also recommend screening if you have a strong family history of lung cancer or certain habits that make you more prone to developing it.

Blood and Lab Tests

Lab tests are often ordered to test both your blood and other fluids for any markers or indicators of cancer, as well as to perform tests for genetic markers that indicate a person’s propensity to developing the disease. Sputum cytology is a test that looks at mucus under the microscope to inspect for the presence of cancer cells.

Dr. McKenna uses these tests on patients who are either high risk or indicate the presence of certain symptoms.


One of the most definitive ways of diagnosing lung cancer is to use a CT scan. This low-dose computerized tomography scan looks at the chest to create a cross-sectional view of the inside of a person’s chest. This gives the doctor a much clearer view of what is happening within a person’s body.

Oftentimes, when a person presents with symptoms of lung cancer, a chest x-ray will be performed to look at not just the lungs, but also the heart, airways, and spinal and chest bones.

Who should consider being screened?

Screening is something that a patient shouldn’t just leave up to their doctor. If you’re experiencing symptoms of lung cancer or have a family history, bring it up to Dr. McKenna so he can determine if you should indeed be screened.

While you tend to hear about lung cancer cases in older individuals, young people can also get the disease. It is not something that should be taken lightly.

If you’re curious to learn more about lung cancer or have questions about screening, contact our office. We take great pride in answering questions patients have, as well as equipping patients with the information they need to make decisions about their health care.

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About the Authors

Osita, M.D., MBA Onugha,

Osita Onugha, M.D., MBA, is the Assistant Professor of Minimally Invasive Chest Surgery and Thoracic Surgical Oncology at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Dr. Onugha is a board-certified surgeon and assistant professor of thoracic surgery at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Dr. Onugha practices all aspects of thoracic surgery, including procedures for benign and malignant conditions of the lung, esophagus and mediastinum. Learn More About Dr. Osita Onugha.