Lung Cancer - Exams and Tests
MRI of the spine may be done if there is concern that
the lung cancer has already spread to the spine. An
MRI of the chest may also be done, but a chest CT scan
is used most often to find out whether the cancer has spread in the
Lung function studies, including a
lung scan (ventilation and perfusion scans, V/Q scan),
may be done if surgery to remove cancer in all or part of a lung is being
considered. A person who has very poor lung function may not be a good
candidate for surgery.
If small cell lung cancer is diagnosed,
additional testing may include a
bone marrow aspiration and biopsy.
Several studies have examined the usefulness of
chest X-rays, sputum cytologies, or
spiral CT to screen for lung cancer in people who do
not have symptoms. Although these tests can sometimes diagnose early lung
cancer, they have not been proved to affect the long-term outcome (prognosis)
of lung cancer. Currently no medical professional organizations recommend
routine screening for lung cancer. Experts continue to study the benefits of screening
Screening may help people whose risk for lung cancer is higher than normal. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of screening tests if you:
- Are a smoker.
- Have had radiation treatment to the chest area.
- Have some other reason for higher risk.
Your doctor can help you decide whether a screening test for lung cancer is right for you. He or she may also help you lower your lung cancer risk and plan for regular checkups.
Screening tests may aid in the early diagnosis of lung
cancer, but the tests can also show abnormal findings, such as nodules, that
are not cancer (false-positives). The finding of a
solitary pulmonary nodule (SPN) on a chest X-ray does
not always mean that cancer is present. Certain tests can help doctors
determine whether an SPN is noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). If
cancer is suspected and the tissue is located close to the chest wall, a needle
biopsy is recommended to confirm or rule out the presence of cancer. A needle
biopsy uses a long needle inserted through the chest wall to remove a sample of
lung tissue. Imaging procedures such as
fluoroscopy usually are used to help guide the needle
to the right spot.