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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Stages of Small-Cell Lung Cancer

Tests and procedures that examine the lungs are used to detect (find) and diagnose small cell lung cancer.

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.

X-ray of the chest. X-rays are used to take pictures of organs and bones of the chest. X-rays pass through the patient onto film.

  • Physical exam and history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Sputum cytology: A microscope is used to check for cancer cells in the sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body. These tests help to diagnose disease, plan and check treatment, or monitor the disease over time.
  • Bronchoscopy: A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. Tissue samples may be taken for biopsy.
  • Bronchoscopy. A bronchoscope is inserted through the mouth, trachea, and major bronchi into the lung, to look for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a cutting tool. Tissue samples may be taken to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy: The removal of part of a lump, suspicious tissue, or fluid, using a thin needle. A pathologist views the tissue or fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells. This procedure is also called a needle biopsy.
  • Thoracentesis: Removal of fluid from the pleural cavity (the space between the lungs and chest wall) through a needle inserted between the ribs.

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