Our lung cancer specialists are expert at diagnosing and staging all types of lung cancer, getting you the treatment you need as quickly as possible.
If you have symptoms that signal lung cancer, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions about your health, your lifestyle (including smoking habits) and your family history. One or more of the tests listed below may be used to find out if you have lung cancer and if it has spread. These tests may also be used to find out if treatment is working.
Lung cancer symptoms vary from person to person, and sometimes people with lung cancer don’t have symptoms. If you have symptoms, they may include:
- A cough that does not go away and gets worse over time
- Constant chest pain, often made worse by deep breathing, coughing or laughing
- Arm or shoulder pain
- Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit
- Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
- Repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the neck and face
- Loss of appetite and/or unexplained weight loss
- Feeling weak or tired (most of the time, constantly run down)
- Clubbing of fingers
If lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it may cause:
- Bone pain
- Arm or leg weakness or numbness
- Headache, dizziness or seizure
- Jaundice (yellow coloring) of skin and eyes
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or shoulder
These symptoms do not always mean you have lung cancer. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with your doctor, since they may also signal other health problems.
Your doctors will confirm the diagnosis and stage of your cancer by using any combination of several procedures:
- Computed tomography (CT). A sophisticated X-ray that shows the body in cross sections. These cross-sectional images are very good at showing the location and size of lung tumors.
- Positron emission tomography (PET). A scan that can help determine where tumors are in the body. Because cancer cells grow faster than normal cells, they consume more sugar. Before the PET scan is done, a special dye that contains sugar is injected into a vein. The dye will highlight areas where the sugar builds up (indicating cancer cells), which can be seen on the PET scan.
- Bronchoscopy. A procedure in which a doctor inserts a camera in the airway (or bronchi) to look for tumors and possibly perform a biopsy (removal of a sample of the tumor or lymph nodes) using a needle.
- Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS). A newer, more specialized type of bronchoscopy that uses sound waves to create an image of the tumor and nearby tissues to help the doctor decide what area to biopsy.
- Navigational bronchoscopy. This procedure uses CT scans, computer software and special small catheters to guide the bronchoscopy procedure. This form of bronchoscopy may be used when a tumor exists in the smallest parts of the airways or to help doctors find the right spot to take a standard biopsy.
- Fine needle aspiration (FNA). A very small needle is placed into the tumor. Suction is used to remove a small amount of tissue, which is then looked at under a microscope.
- Thoracentesis. A needle is used to draw fluid from around the lungs to be looked at under a microscope.
Staging Your Cancer
The stage of a cancer, sometimes referred to as we use the system to see what type of treatment you should receive, is used to determine the type of treatment you should receive. It is calculated based on several factors:
- The least advanced cancer is referred to as Stage I, and the most advanced is Stage IV.
- Size of the tumor (T)
- Whether or not the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (N)
- Whether or not the cancer has spread to other lymph nodes of the neck or chest area
- Whether or not the cancer has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body (M)
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