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Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer vs. Fungal Infection

09/28/2009

Question:

My father was diagnosed with lung cancer after an X-ray and (I think, a blood test--is this possible?) After a CT scan at one hospital, they told him it was Stage IV. When they went to another hospital however, they told him that it was possibly a fungal infection or an infectious disease of some sort?!

My father is 50 years old, a nonsmoker, and very active in sports. The X ray showed two spots (tumors?) on his lungs, one of them being very large (approximately 7 mm).

I have a couple of questions, because my father is receiving treatment in Taiwan and I don`t understand Chinese medical terms. The above information was relayed by my aunt--who again does not have much practice trying to translate medical issues.

How easy is it to mistake a fungal infection for lung cancer on a CT scan?

If it is a fungal infection, is this "better" than lung cancer? Is it treatable? Is it dependent on the infection? How many types of infections are out there.

My aunt mentioned that they needed some kind of special dye to run another test...and if that test came out bad or unclear, then they would biopsy. Does anyone know what this dye test supposedly would refer to? And why wouldn`t you biopsy to start with?

Answer:

Fungal (and many other) infections, tumors (malignant or benign), and other processes can cause lung masses. The only way to know the diagnosis is to sample the lesion: biopsy by surgery, bronchoscopy, or needle biopsy directed by a CT. Lung cancer is less likely in a non-smoker, but not impossible. The test they may be considering is a PET scan. The dye is labeled glucose that concentrates in areas of elevated metabolism: infection, malignancy, or injury. Again, this does not prove cancer. The only test for lung cancer is a biopsy.

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Response by:

Michael F Reed, MD Michael F Reed, MD
Assistant Professor of Surgery
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati