Exams and Tests
Your doctor will first do a physical exam and ask about your medical history to find out your risk for lung cancer and look for any lung problems. The exam may include a Reference chest X-ray and Reference blood test.
If your exam suggests that you may have lung cancer, your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:
- Reference CT scan.
- Reference PET scan.
- Tissue sampling. Doctors can use a variety of tests to examine tissue or fluid samples under a microscope and look for cancer cells. Tests include:
Tests after diagnosis
After lung cancer has been diagnosed, testing is done to find out whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other organs in your body and to determine the Reference stage of the cancer.
- Reference MRI of the brain, spine, or chest.
- Reference CT scan of the brain, neck, chest, abdomen, or pelvis.
- Reference PET scan.
- Reference Bone scan.
- Reference Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) Opens New Window. In this test, a small ultrasound probe at the end of the endoscope is placed down the throat to the chest area. The ultrasound can help find cancer behind the breast bone or in lymph nodes in the area. EUS may also be used to guide a Reference biopsy of the lymph nodes, the lung, or other areas.
- Reference Mediastinoscopy.
- Reference Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
If you have non-small cell lung cancer, your doctor may check for Reference tumor markers (biomarkers) Opens New Window, such as EGFR, ALK, and KRAS, that are caused by gene changes (mutations) in cancer cells. This can help your doctor choose the treatment that will work best for you.
Tests before surgery
A person whose lungs aren't working well may not be a good candidate for surgery. If surgery to remove cancer in all or part of a lung is being considered, the following tests may be done:
Screening tests help your doctor look for a certain disease or condition before any symptoms appear. This can increase your chance of finding the problem at a more treatable stage. Studies have not yet shown that routine screening for lung cancer saves lives or prevents lung cancer.
Screening may help people whose risk for lung cancer is higher than normal. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of screening tests if you:
- Are a smoker.
- Have had radiation treatment to the chest area.
- Have some other reason for higher risk.
Several studies have looked at the use of chest X-rays, sputum cytologies, or Reference spiral CT Opens New Window to screen for lung cancer. Screening with chest X-rays or sputum didn't improve survival. But a large research study found that screening with low-dose spiral CT reduced lung cancer deaths among current and former smokers.Reference 6 Screening with low-dose CT scans may help if you are older than 55 and are a heavy smoker.Reference 7
While screening tests may aid in the early diagnosis of lung cancer, they can also show abnormal findings, such as nodules, that are not cancer. This is known as a Reference false-positive Opens New Window, which can cause you to have more tests or even treatment that you don't need.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology