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Tests and Diagnosis for Lung Cancer


This article is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Seek medical care for your treatment.

What is Lung Cancer?

A disease known as cancer develops when body cells multiply rapidly. Lung cancer is the term for cancer that begins in the lungs. The illness known as lung cancer arises from unrestricted cell division in the lungs. Your cells naturally split and generate new replicas of them. The normal operation of your cells is to divide and make more copies of them. Occasionally, they suffer mutations that cause them to keep making more of themselves when they shouldn’t. Unconstrained cell division caused by damage results in tissue masses known as tumors that eventually impair the functionality of your organs.

Lung cancer starts in the lungs; they are usually detected in the bronchi or bronchioles, or in the tiny air sacs called alveoli. Generally speaking, tumors that start somewhere else and advance to your lungs are named after the original location (your doctor may call this type of cancer “metastatic to lung cancer”).

Diagnosis and tests:

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosing lung cancer involves different steps. Your first visit to the doctor will involve them listening to the symptoms, questioning you about your health history and doing a physical exam. To diagnose lung cancer Doctor will take your blood tests and a chest X-ray because lung cancer symptoms are similar to other cancers. If your doctor doubts you that you have lung cancer your doctor will perform more imaging tests like a CT scan and then a biopsy for complete diagnosis, other tests like PET/CT scan to see if the cancer has advanced further to the other body parts and tests of cancerous tissue from a biopsy to help identify the best kind of treatment.

Does lung cancer show up on a chest X-ray?

When it comes to revealing a lung tumor, especially in its initial stages, X-rays aren’t as useful as CT scans. Tumors may be concealed from view by surrounding body structures, such as your ribs, or they may be too small to identify on an X-ray. X-rays can only indicate to your provider whether there is something wary that demands further investigation; they are not able to rule out lung cancer.

Tests done for the diagnosis of lung cancer:

For lung cancer diagnosis your doctor might suggest to perform blood tests, imaging and biopsies of fluid or tissue.

  • Blood tests:

Blood tests cannot distinguish cancer on their own but they can help the doctor to know if your organs and other body parts are functioning properly.

  • Imaging:

Chest X-rays and CT scans provide your doctor images that can display changes in your lungs. PET/CT scans are generally done to assess a concerning discovery on a CT scan or after a cancer diagnosis to identify whether cancer has spread.

  • Sputum cytology:

If you have a cough and are producing sputum, looking at the sputum under the microscope can at times show the existence of lung cancer cells.

  • Biopsy:

There are various procedures to determine more clearly at what is happening inside your chest. Your doctor may take biopsy samples of tissue or fluid during the same procedures. These samples can be investigated under a microscope to determine the type of cancer and look for cancer cells. Also, samples can be examined for genetic alterations (mutations) that may impact your course of treatment.

Techniques applied to identify the level of lung cancer’s spread or to make an initial diagnosis include:

  • Needle biopsy: your doctor will use a needle to gather samples of fluid or tissue for testing.
  • Bronchoscopy, thoracoscopy or video-assisted thoracic surgery: these procedures are used to look at the parts of your lungs and take tissue samples.
  • Thoracentesis: this procedure is adopted to take a sample of the fluid around your lungs for testing.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound or endoscopic esophageal ultrasound: is a technique that uses ultrasound along with bronchoscopy to analyze the airway wall and structure next to it. 
  • Mediastinoscopy or mediastinotomy: a provider uses these procedures to look at and take samples from the area between your lungs. 

Molecular tests:

As a part of biopsy, your doctor might have your tissue sample examined for gene changes that special drugs can target as part of your treatment plan. Genes that might have changes that can be targeted in NSCLC include:

  • KRAS.
  • EGFR.
  • ALK.
  • ROS1.
  • BRAF.
  • RET.
  • MET.
  • HER2.
  • NTRK.


Knowing a lung cancer diagnosis can activate a wide range of emotions. The amount of new information available can sometime be detrimental. It’s crucial to keep in mind that statistics cannot foresee your course of treatment or the best course of action for your specific circumstances.

Seeking assistance from dependable family members or a support community can assist you in knowing your options and expressing your preferences. Taking care of oneself is one of the most essential aspects of the frequently lengthy cancer treatment process.

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