What is the role of imaging in the screening for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

Updated: Aug 27, 2019
  • Author: Sat Sharma, MD, FRCPC; Chief Editor: Eugene C Lin, MD  more...
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In a malignancy such as bronchogenic carcinoma, early detection can lead to surgical resection of the lesion and cure. However,, the use of radiologic modalities has not proven successful in reducing mortality rates. For screening of non–small cell carcinoma of the lung, chest radiography may result in improved survival, although a mortality benefit has not been confirmed. The American Cancer Society does not recommend routine mass screening for the detection of lung cancer. However, early stage detection, resectability, and survival improve with chest radiographic screening in high-risk populations.

Studies have shown that low-dose helical CT scan of the thorax may detect lesions at an earlier stage and, therefore, may potentially improve resectability, survival, and mortality rates.

Radiologic manifestations of bronchogenic carcinoma include obstructive pneumonitis or atelectasis, lung nodule or mass, apical mass, cavitated mass, or nodule or mass associated with lymphadenopathy. Chest radiography is a readily available, inexpensive, and useful imaging modality in the workup of patients with non–small cell carcinoma. Therefore, chest radiography is used most often as an initial investigation.

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