If lung cancer is suspected in a patient, a series of different tests will be carried out to confirm the diseases presence (diagnosis), and to determine how widespread the disease has become (staging).
What are X-rays, CT Scans, and MRI Scans?
Usually patients are diagnosed with lung cancer when a doctor orders a chest X-ray which is associated with another illness. If lung cancer is detected by the chest X-ray, a CT (computer assisted tomography) scan, or a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan may also be ordered to further confirm both the diseases diagnosis and staging.
CT scans and MRI scans are tests that use computerized imaging to show in greater detail the size, shape, and exact location of a suspected tumor. At the same time the images will show whether the cancer has spread to another part of the body. If the cancer has spread to other organs within the body, further tests will be ordered by the doctor.
What is a Lung Biopsy?
A lung biopsy is where tissue is removed from the tumor and inspected under a microscope to confirm whether cancerous cells are present or not. This may be done via a needle being inserted through the wall of the chest to take a sample from the tumor, or via surgery where the wall of the chest is opened and either part or all the tumor is removed.
Lung biopsies are necessary to determine an accurate diagnosis, and also to identify the specific type of lung cancer present in a patient.
What is a Sputum Cytology?
A sputum cytology is a test used on cells that are coughed up from either the patient's lungs or breathing tubes, and are examined under a microscope to see whether they are cancerous or not. The test may also determine the specific type of cancer a patient has, although it will not show the precise location of the tumor. If the sputum cytology test is found to be positive, further tests will need to be carried out.
What is Staging?
Staging is a scale used by doctors to show how advanced (widespread) the lung cancer is within a patient. Staging also assists doctors to determine an accurate prognosis (a prediction of the likely future outcome of the disease). Once the prognosis has been evaluated by a doctor, an appropriate treatment plan can begin for the patient.
Each different stage of lung cancer is treated differently, and depending on the condition of a patient.