To help find the cause of symptoms, the doctor evaluates the person’s medical history, your history of smoking, exposure to substances in the environment or the office and family history of cancer. The doctor also performs a physical exam and may order chest x-rays and other tests. If lung cancer is suspected, sputum cytology (microscopic examination of cells in a sample of mucus from the lungs that is obtained by coughing deeply) is a simple test that can be useful for detecting lung cancer. To confirm the presence of lung cancer, the doctor needs to examine lung tissue. A biopsy is the removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist and can show if a person has cancer. Several procedures can be used to obtain this tissue.
Bronchoscopy. The doctor puts a bronchoscope (a thin, tube-light) by mouth or nose down to the windpipe to look into the airways.Through this tube, the doctor can collect cells or small tissue samples.
Needle aspiration. A needle is inserted into the tumor through the chest to remove a tissue sample.
Thoracentesis. By means of a needle, the doctor removes a sample of the fluid around the lungs for cancer cells.
Thoracotomy. Sometimes surgery is needed to open the chest and be able to diagnose lung cancer. This procedure is a major operation that is performed in the hospital.
Staging of the disease
If the diagnosis is cancer, the doctor will want to know the stage (or extent) of disease. Staging was performed to determine whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Lung cancer often spreads to the brain or bones. Knowing the stage (stage) of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment. Some of the tests used to determine if the cancer has spread include:
CT scanogram or CT scan. A computer linked to an X-ray machine creates a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A powerful magnet linked to a computer to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
Radionuclide studies. The radionuclide scans (radioactive isotopes) can show whether cancer has spread to other organs like the liver. The patient swallows or receives an injection of a mildly radioactive substance. A machine (scanner) measures and records the level of radioactivity in certain organs to reveal abnormal areas.
Bone scan. The Bone scan, a type of radionuclide study can show whether cancer has spread to the bones. Is injected into a vein a small amount of a radioactive substance that travels through the bloodstream and concentrates in the areas of abnormal bone growth.An instrument called a scanner measures the radioactivity levels in these areas and records them on x-ray film
Mediastinoscopy / mediastinotomy. A mediastinoscopy can help show whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the chest.Using an instrument called an endoscope optical light, the doctor examines the center of the chest (mediastinum) and nearby lymph nodes. In mediastinoscopy, the scope is inserted through a small incision in the neck in mediastinotomy, the incision is made in the chest. In either procedure, the endoscope is also used to collect a tissue sample. The patient receives general anesthesia.