Lung Cancer Awareness
National Lung Cancer Awareness month is November, and it’s also the perfect time to see how far we’ve come in the fight against the number one cancer killer of men and women.
The good news is that according to American Cancer Society (ACS) data, more than 430,000 people alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point, and National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports show that lung cancer rates overall are down nationally and in Arizona. NCI trends show that the overall mortality (death) rate for lung cancer (lung and bronchus) rose steadily through the 1980s, peaked in the early 1990s, and has been slowly declining since 2001. In Arizona, according to the NCI, the annual lung cancer mortality rate is 38.5 deaths per 100,000, a decline of 2.7 percent over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. The number of newly diagnosed cases in Arizona (lung cancer incidence) has remained stable over the same five-year period.
As radiologists, we use many types (modalities) of imaging technology to learn more about how the human body is working without having to resort to surgery. These include: X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans as well as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Regarding this last modality, the idea of using magnets to look at electrically charged particles inside the human body was once ridiculed as crazy. Today, MRI is used in thousands of locations around the world to help radiologists and other health care professionals better understand the human body.
On July 3, 1977, a machine built around a giant magnet took crude images of a test patient’s chest, including the heart and lungs. This marked the first-ever use of a machine to scan the body for signs of cancer. The machine, called Indomitable, was the first human scanner and earliest MRI technology.
Seeing is Believing
The X-ray, also known as a radiograph, is the oldest and most common form of medical imaging. X-rays are a form of radiation (ionizing) that passes through the human body and strikes a detector that either exposes a film or sends the resulting image to a computer.
Millions of X-rays are performed each year in the U. S. to help diagnose a variety of conditions. The conventional X-ray exam is called radiography and is defined by RadiologyInfo.org as “the examination of any part of the body for diagnostic purposes by means of x-rays with the findings usually recorded digitally or on film.”
The discovery of the X-ray in 1895 by physics professor Wilhelm Roentgen was truly a breakthrough in medical science, enabling humans for the first time to see inside the living human body.