Diagnosising Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Some of the tests and procedures used to diagnose and stage non-small cell lung cancer are often done at the same time. Some of the following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check for general signs of disease, such as lumps or anything that seems unusual. A history of a patient’s health habits, past jobs, illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Laboratory tests: Testing samples of tissue, blood, urine or other substances in the body can help to diagnose disease, plan and check treatment or monitor the disease over time.
  • Chest X-ray: This is often the first test your doctor will do to look for any spots or masses on the lungs. It creates a picture of the organs and bones inside the chest.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: The CT scan uses X-rays to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body at different angles. A CT scanner takes many pictures as it rotates around you while you lie on a table. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): To make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the brain, using a magnet, radio waves, and a computer. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: This test finds malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
  • Radionuclide bone scan: This test checks if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): An endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing) is inserted down the throat and into the esophagus. A probe at the end of the endoscope is used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. This procedure is also called endosonography. EUS may be used to guide fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy of the lung, lymph nodes or other areas.

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