Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Beating this disease starts with advanced screening and accurate diagnosis.

Lung cancer can take several forms, and it’s important to get the correct diagnosis so you receive a treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

We also offer lung cancer screening for current and former smokers. When we detect the disease early, your chance of beating lung cancer increases.

How will my lung cancer be diagnosed?

We use advanced tools and technology to diagnose lung cancer. If we suspect lung cancer, we will order one or more of the following tests:

  • Imaging tests: These tests take pictures of the inside of the body and may include a chest X-ray or CT (computed tomography) scan.
  • Biopsy: If something in your lung looks suspicious, we may need to perform a biopsy, which is when we take a tissue sample for further testing. We offer a variety of minimally invasive methods for sampling tissue that are quick and painless, including bronchoscopy and endobronchial ultrasound.
  • PET scan or bone scan: To learn whether cancer has spread, we may order a PET (positron emission tomography) scan or a bone scan. These tests use a mildly radioactive substance to check the function of cells and tissues.

What are the stages of lung cancer?

When we diagnose lung cancer, we also identify the cancer’s stage. The stage refers to the size of the tumor and whether it has spread. Understanding the stage helps us determine the best treatment option for you.

We consider all aspects of the cancer to classify it in one of five stages:

  • Stage 0: The tumor is growing only in the top layers of the lung passages.
  • Stage I: The tumor is no bigger than 5 centimeters (about 2 inches). It may have spread to other locations in the airways or lungs but not to distant locations in the body.
  • Stage II: The main tumor is no larger than 7 centimeters (about 3 inches). It may have spread to areas in the airways or lungs, or to nearby lymph nodes, but not to both places. We classify a tumor Stage IIB if it is larger than 7 centimeters.
  • Stage III: A tumor of any size that has spread through the entire lung to spaces outside the lung and possibly to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: This stage indicates that the cancer has spread farther into the body. Cancer cells may be present in the blood; in lymph fluid; or in distant organs such as the liver, bones, or brain.
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