Small cell lung cancer is the most aggressive type of lung cancer that exists. Therefore, proper and early diagnosis will give you much better odds of successful treatment, no matter what you need. The diagnosis of this type of cancer involves a lot of different tests, but generally starts with a medical history and physical exam. This information will help doctors determine which next steps to take and how to best determine what is going on inside of your body. The difficult part, for most people, is that by the time diagnosis occurs, small cell lung cancer has usually spread to other parts of the body because it is so aggressive.
Small Cell Lung Cancer- The Diagnosis Process and Tests
After the physical exam and medical history, a variety of tests might be ordered by your doctor. These include many different imaging and functional tests to see what exactly is going on inside of your body. You could be given any of the following tests to help with your small cell lung cancer diagnosis:
- Chest x-rays
- CT scans
- Bone scans
- Complete blood count tests (CBC)
- Liver function
- PET scans
- Sputum cytology (examination of sputum for cancer cells)
- Thoracentesis (removal of fluid around the lungs)
All of these tests work differently, but will help doctors determine exactly what is going on, whether you have small cell lung cancer, and how advanced it is if so. Only your doctor can help you decide which tests are best, and they may use more than one to make sure that their diagnosis is accurate. By knowing what to expect, it will be easier for you to be prepared for what lies ahead.
Small Cell Lung Cancer Diagnosis- Earlier is Better
Even though most cases of small cell lung cancer aren’t diagnosed until the disease is in the extensive stage, an earlier diagnosis is always the best result. People need to make sure that they pay attention to symptoms and are adamant about testing when they know that something isn’t right. Too often, the controversy over early screening and testing stops doctors from performing tests unless they are absolutely certain that they are needed, so patients have to advocate for themselves.
No matter when it is diagnosed, small cell lung cancer is treatable. Because of its aggressive nature, surgery is generally too invasive and not an effective option. Chemotherapy and radiation, used alone or together, are the best treatment options for anyone diagnosed with this condition. Know your symptoms, know the situation, and make sure that you talk to your doctor about everything so that you can get the testing and diagnosis that you deserve.
Small Cell Lung Cancer Diagnosis- The Path to Treatment
Once a diagnosis is made, it will be up to you to discuss your treatment options with your doctor. People who have more advanced or aggressive types of small cell lung cancer might need a more aggressive treatment plan. In some cases where chemotherapy or radiation doesn’t seem to be effective options, clinical trials might be considered, as well. Taking experimental drugs might seem dangerous, but when there are few other options, it’s better than doing nothing to help kill the cancer cells.
Because this cancer is known as a smoker’s cancer, it is rare that non-smokers will ever think about getting tested or diagnosed. However, even though the chances of being affected are rare, it’s still important to check out any symptoms and get a diagnosis to make sure that you can always get the treatment that you deserve for your cancer, small cell or otherwise.