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A 30-year-old female asked:

Can lung cancer be missed on an x-ray?

4 doctor answers4 doctors weighed in
Dr. William Walsh
Addiction Medicine 18 years experience
Easily: Some cancers do not ever show up on x-ray, others look like pneumonia. A chest ct is often needed.
Dr. Robert Binford
Thoracic Surgery 39 years experience
Yes: Unfortunately there is a limit to the resolution of a chest x-ray. Small lesions can be missed. In addition, a chest xray is just a 2 dimensional projection comparing desities of different structures. If a tumor happens to overlap with another structure of the same density then you can't even see it. A ct scan can give a higher resolution picture but even it can miss a tumor at times.
Dr. Ed Friedlander
Pathology 45 years experience
Yes: Especially, if they are near the point at which the vessels and airways enter the lung, they can be concealed by the other solid tissues. Or a cancer may be masked by the pneumonia it causes by plugging an airway, or be too small to resolve on a chest plain film.
Dr. Liawaty Ho
Hematology and Oncology 24 years experience
Yes it can: Sensitivity and specificity of chest x-ray to diagnose lung nodule/cancer are not perfect. Small nodules can be easily missed on chest x-ray. Ct scan will be more sensitive-compared to chest x-ray - in picking up small nodules.

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Last updated Sep 22, 2016
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