Lungs – Tests for Diagnosing Lung Cancer

February 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Lung Health

Cancer can best be dealt when it is detected at the early stages. So when a patient walks in with symptoms which even mildly hint a lung cancer, the physician immediately directs the patient for further tests for diagnosing lung cancer.

There are many alternative and supplemental tests for diagnosing lung cancer.


X-ray of the lungs is taken. Any blurring of the lungs structure in the x-ray could indicate lung cancer.

CT scan:

CT scan short for Computer Tomography scan, which is a high resolution imaging technology, is a supplemental test for diagnosing lung cancer following an x-ray.

PET scan:

PET scan short for Positron Emission Tomography scan can show clear outline of the carcinoma. In this technology, a radioactive isotope is administered into the affected body part. The carcinoma cells will absorb this radioactive substance in a way distinguishable from the non-carcinoma cells. A scan will display the two types of cells differently which a Radiologist can infer and report on.


Biopsy of the lung tissue is the most reliable test for diagnosing lung cancers. There are many ways of conducting a biopsy.

Bronchoscopy: For this the patient is first doped. Then the physician inserts a tube through the patient’s throat or nose to reach the lungs. This tube has miniscule scissors at the end which scrapes off a sample of tissue cells from the lungs. This test-sample of lung tissue is treated by a pathologist to diagnose if the tissue contains carcinoma cells.

Bronchoscopy can be done by fine needle aspiration technique also. For this too the patient is first doped. A thin needle is inserted through the chest to reach the lymph node close to the lungs. The needle syringes out a few cells. This sample is treated by a pathologist to diagnose if the cells indicate the presence of a tumour.

Mediastinoscopy: This test is performed on the patient after doping. A tiny cut is slit at the bottom of the throat. A tube is passed through this slit to reach the lymph nodes of the chest. Bronchoscopy procedure follows.

Thoracentesis: When the patient is having pleural effusion, a condition characterised by fluid filling into the lungs, this technique can be used. A thin need is inserted through the chest and further down avoiding the ribs. The fluid is syringed out with the help of this needle. Pathologist performs tests on this fluid sample for presence of cancer cells.

Supplemental tests:

This involves collection of data on the patient’s medical history, patient’s family history, lifestyle factors are checked on, like, if the patient smokes, takes alcohol, etc.

Lung cancer, for that matter any cancer, spreads very quickly. It is therefore recommended that people seek medical advise there is just an inkling of doubt of the presence of lung cancer and get done the tests for diagnosing lung cancer. This is particularly important for smokers who are more susceptible to lung cancer.