Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Doctor and patient looking at lung cancer diagnosis

Early lung cancer diagnosis allows patients to have a higher chance of survival in comparison to cases whereby the cancer is discovered when it has progressed to a later stage. People with an increased risk of lung cancer may consider annual lung cancer screening using low-dose CT scans. Medical experts recommend lung cancer screening for older adults between 55 to 74 years old with a smoking history of a pack of cigarettes per day for 30 years or more (regardless whether they are current smokers or have quit). If screening results indicate any abnormality, the doctor may order further tests to be conducted to confirm the disease.

What Are The Tests For Diagnosis Of Lung Cancer?

Diagnosing lung cancer starts with a check-up with a lung specialist and a physical exam. They’ll want to go over your medical and family history and any symptoms you’re having. You will also need blood tests, scans and/or biopsies to confirm the diagnosis. The tests may include:

Imaging Tests

  • Chest X-Ray – This is usually the first test for spotting large lesions.
  • CT scan – This is used to confirm the x-ray findings. It helps in detecting smaller lesions and other pathologies, if any.
  • MRI – This is occasionally used to gauge the location and size the tumour.
  • PET CT scan – Once the cancer is confirmed or suspected, this scan is done to evaluate the spread of the disease and for purposes of staging or as a response to treatment.

Sputum Cytology

If you have a cough and currently produce sputum, looking at the sputum under the microscope can sometimes reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.

Tissue Sample (Biopsy)

A sample of abnormal cells may be removed in a procedure called a biopsy.

Your doctor can perform a biopsy in several ways, including bronchoscopy, in which your doctor examines abnormal areas of your lungs using a lighted tube that’s passed down your throat and into your lungs.


In this procedure, the doctor aims to take tissue samples from the lymph nodes. This is done through an incision at the base of the neck followed by using surgical tools to take the tissue samples.

Careful analysis of your cancer cells in a lab will reveal what type of lung cancer you have. Results of sophisticated testing can tell your doctor the specific characteristics of your cells that can help determine your prognosis and guide your treatment.

Further Reading That Might Interest You

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This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.