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Less Invasive Test Shows Promise in Confirming Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Invasive Test for Lung Cancer diagnosis

Once there is a suspicion of lung cancer, the next step is usually a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. This is a common test, but does not come without risk. Scientists may have found a less invasive way to confirm lung cancer.


A lung biopsy is a procedure to obtain a small sample of lung tissue for closer examination once an abnormality is found on a test such as a chest x-ray or a CT scan. The procedure can be used to determine whether the area is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Lung biopsies are common and usually safe. However, as with any procedure, they have risks including bleeding, infection, or – in the worst case - collapsed lung.

Researchers with Boston University suggest the future holds for us potentially a less invasive method for confirming lung cancer – a nasal swab. The swab will collect cells so that doctors can look for DNA-based biomarkers. In a recent patient-based study, the team identified a pattern of 30 genes that were active in people with lung cancer and not present in those who did not have the disease.

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Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and is by far the leading cause of cancer death. One reason for this is that most lung cancers, by the time they are found, are already at an advanced stage and much harder to treat.

Recently, the American Cancer Society published data to emphasize the need for more early screenings in those at high risk for developing lung cancer – current and former smokers.

According to the research, in 2015, there are about 6.8 million Americans who meet the criteria for screening, but only 262,700 who actually received it.

Journal of the National Cancer Institute, February 2017
Johns Hopkins Medicine
American Cancer Society

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By Amitchell125 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons