RESULTS of treatment of lung cancer today leave much to be desired. A recent study indicated that the five-year survival rate in all patients with bronchogenic carcinoma was still less than 15%.1 There is evidence, however, that this gloomy prognosis can be improved, provided that the tumor can be discovered while it is still resectable.2
At present, cytologic examination of sputum (or bronchial secretion) constitutes the most accurate diagnostic test for lung cancer of any procedure short of thoracotomy with lung biopsy. Roentgenographic procedures may be more sensitive, but they are primarily screening devices and cannot confirm the diagnosis of malignancy as cytology studies can.
Published reports3 indicate that cancer cells can be detected in sputum or bronchial secretions of about two thirds of patients with primary bronchogenic carcinoma and one third of those with metastatic cancer to the lung. As might be expected, figures in different
Fontana RS, Carr DT, Woolner LB, Miller FT. Value of Induced Sputum in Cytologic Diagnosis of Lung Cancer. JAMA. 1965;191(2):134–136. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080020062024
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