Win the Fight Against Lung Cancer!

Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

To help find the cause of symptoms, the doctor evaluates a person's medical history, smoking history, exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family history of cancer. The doctor also performs a physical exam and may order a chest x-ray and other tests. If lung cancer is suspected, sputum cytology (the microscopic examination of cells obtained from a deep-cough sample of mucus in the lungs) is a simple test that may be useful in detecting lung cancer. To confirm the presence of lung cancer, the doctor must examine tissue from the lung. A biopsy -- the removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist -- can show whether a person has cancer. A number of procedures may be used to obtain this tissue:

Bronchoscopy. The doctor puts a bronchoscope (a thin, lighted tube) into the mouth or nose and down through the windpipe to look into the breathing passages. Through this tube, the doctor can collect cells or small samples of tissue.

Needle aspiration. A needle is inserted through the chest into the tumor to remove a sample of tissue.

Thoracentesis. Using a needle, the doctor removes a sample of the fluid that surrounds the lungs to check for cancer cells.

Thoracotomy. Surgery to open the chest is sometimes needed to diagnose lung cancer. This procedure is a major operation performed in a hospital.

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