Can lung test predict cancer?
October 9, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT
NEW YORK (CNN) -- If you knew you had lung cancer, would it
make you rethink your next cigarette? Television personality
Morton Downey Jr. certainly did when nine weeks ago he
learned he had lung cancer.
He has quit smoking and is now the spokesman for a new test
called "LungCheck." The private company marketing the test
says LungCheck can forecast lung cancer.
"I wish this was around (20 years ago), I'm glad it's around
now," Downey said.
By examining fluid from the lungs brought up by coughing,
doctors can tell patients whether their lungs are harboring
abnormal cells. Although the lab procedure has been around
for years, it has never before been used for widespread
screening for potential lung cancer patients.
According to the American Cancer Society, less than 15
percent of lung cancer patients live more than five years.
Early detection is crucial to increasing the chances of
But one cancer specialist familiar with the procedure said
the test isn't foolproof. Dr. William Cahen of the Sloan
Kettering Cancer Center says the test could give false
negatives, missing abnormalities on the edges of the lungs.
"Cancers have become more peripherally located in the lung,
rather than the central portion" where changes show up on
microscopic analysis," Cahen said.
Other doctors, including Dr. Jon Eylands, who is working on
LungCheck, are concerned that while receiving bad news may
prompt smokers to quit, good news may have the opposite
"By saying you are not going to get lung cancer, we are not
giving a license to smoke," Eylands stressed.
Neither the American Lung Association, for which Downey is
also a spokesman, nor the American Cancer Society have
The product is being made available through doctors at a cost
of $150 per test, which is covered by some insurance plans.
Its value may be far greater than the price tag if the test
can do what its manufacturers hope it will accomplish: show
smokers why they should quit, and then convince them to do
From Reporter Christine Negroni
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