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All about lung cancer types of lung cancer small cell lung cancer non-small cell lung cancer causes of lung cancer risk factors for lung cancer lung cancer symptoms diagnosis of lung cancer lung cancer stages lung cancer treatments treatment for small cell lung cancer non-small cell lung cancer treatment treatment for non-small cell lung cancer by stage lung cancer survival rate prevention of lung cancer asbestos lung cancer

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

If the patient's doctor suspects lung cancer, he or she will take a detailed medical history to check all the symptoms and assess the risk factors. The history-taking will be followed by a complete physical examination. The doctor will examine the patient's throat to rule out other possible causes of hoarseness or coughing, and listen to the patient's breathing and the sounds made when the patient's chest and upper back are tapped (percussed). The physical examination, however, is not

conclusive. The doctor may want to look into the bronchi through a special instrument called a bronchoscope, which slides down the throat and into the bronchi. This test, called bronchoscopy, is usually done in the hospital. Before the test, the patient is given a local anesthetic (a drug that causes a loss of feeling for a short period of time) in the back of the throat. The patient may feel some pressure but usually will not experience pain. The doctor can take cells from the walls of the bronchi tubes or cut small pieces of tissue to look at under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells. This procedure, called a biopsy, is the only way to confirm a cancer diagnosis.

If the doctor has reason to suspect lung cancer-- particularly if the patient has a history of heavy smoking or occupational exposure to substances that are known to irritate the lungs-- he or she may order a chest x ray to see if there are any masses in the lungs. Special imaging techniques, such as CT scans or MRIs, may provide more precise information about the size, shape, and location of any tumors. A computed tomography (CT) may show small nodules that do not appear on chest x-rays. CT can also reveal whether the lymph nodes are enlarged; a biopsy of enlarged lymph nodes is often needed to determine if inflammation or cancer is responsible for the enlargement. In certain patients, cancer may have already spread to lymph glands in the neck. In such cases, a fine needle aspiration of the lymph gland should be performed. This is a fairly easy procedure. Unfortunately, most doctors avoid the simple test of sputum study. There is no reason not to perform this test, since it establishes the diagnosis in about 30% of patients. In a small percentage of patients, none of the above tests will lead into a diagnosis and there will be a need to proceed with more invasive procedures, and perhaps surgery.

Lung biopsy is the most definitive diagnostic tool for cancer. It can be performed in several different ways. The doctor can perform a bronchoscopy, which involves the insertion of a slender, lighted tube, called a bronchoscope, down the patient's throat and into the lungs. In addition to viewing the passageways of the lungs, the doctor can use the bronchoscope to obtain samples of the lung tissue. In another procedure known as a needle biopsy, the location of the tumor is first identified using a CT scan or MRI. The doctor then inserts a needle through the chest wall and collects a sample of tissue from the tumor. In the third procedure, known as surgical biopsy, the chest wall is opened up and a part of the tumor, or all of it, is removed. A doctor who specializes in the study of diseased tissue (a pathologist) examines the tumor samples to identify the cancer's type and stage.

Cells that are coughed up from the lungs or breathing tubes can be examined under a microscope to see if they contain cancer. This procedure is called sputum cytology. In some cases, sputum cytology can reveal lung cancers in patients with normal X-rays or can determine the type of lung cancer. Because it cannot pinpoint the tumor's location, a positive sputum cytology test is usually followed by further tests.

More information on lung cancer

What is lung cancer? - Lung cancer is a malignant tumour of the lungs. Lung cancer is the cancer that originates in the tissues of the lungs. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths.
What types of lung cancer are there? - The lungs are made up of several kinds of cells that perform different functions. The type of lung cancer depends on which cell type is affected.
What is small cell lung cancer? - Small cell lung cancer is a type of lung cancer in which the cells look like oats. Small cell lung cancer is almost always caused by smoking.
What is non-small cell lung cancer? - Non-small cell lung cancers include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, and undifferentiated carcinoma.
What causes lung cancer? - Cigarette smoking is the most significant cause of lung cancer. Asbestos exposure increases the risk of lung cancer. Lung diseases create a risk for lung cancer.
What're the risk factors for lung cancer? - Risk factors for lung cancer include tobacco smoking, marijuana, asbestos, radon, lung diseases, radiation therapy, work-related exposure to substances.
What're the signs and symptoms of lung cancer? - Lung cancer may cause a number of symptoms. The primary symptoms of lung cancer are cough, shortness of breath, hoarseness, blood in the sputum, and pain.
How is lung cancer diagnosed? - Diagnosis of lung cancer may be made by physical examination, chest X rays, bronchoscopy, or percutaneous needle biopsy. Lung biopsy is the most definitive diagnostic tool for cancer.
What're the lung cancer stages? - Lung cancer is staged according to its location, size, cell type, and spread. Knowing the stage of lung cancer helps the doctor set the treatment plan.
What're the treatments for lung cancer? - The treatment of lung cancer depends on the type and stage of the disease and includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
What's the treatment for small cell lung cancer? - At limited stage treatments for small cell lung cancer include various combinations of chemotherapy, radiation.
What's the treatment for non-small cell lung cancer? - Surgery is the primary treatment for all non¨Csmall cell lung cancers. Radiation therapy may be administered.
Treatment for non-small cell lung cancer by stage - Stage III non-small cell lung cancer are treated with radiation and sometimes with surgery, chemotherapy, or combinations of each.
What's the prognosis of lung cancer survival rate? - The prognosis of lung cancer depends on the type of lung cancer, its stage, and the overall health of the patient.
How to prevent lung cancer? - Prevention of lung cancer includes quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to potentially cancer-causing substances in the work environment.
Asbestos lung cancer - The most serious hazard of exposure to asbestos is cancer. Lung cancer causes the largest number of deaths related to asbestos exposure.
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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005