Lung cancer does not usually cause symptoms in its early stages. When symptoms do occur, lung cancer can be advanced. Symptoms include:
- chronic cough
- coughing up blood
- weight loss
- shortness of breath
- persistent wheezing
- bronchitis or pneumonia
- chest pain
Initially, a chest x-ray can be done to check for any abnormalities in the lungs. After that, there are several diagnostic tests your doctor could choose to use.
Allows the doctor to examine the inside of the lung airways and take samples of the cells for biopsy. A thin, flexible tube called a bronchoscope is used and allows the doctor to look through the bronchoscope for anbormalities and take photographs.
CT Scan (CAT scan)
A sophisticated type of x-ray which builds up a three-dimensional picture of the inside of the body. It may be used to find the exact site and size of the tumor, or to check for any spread of the disease.
MRI Scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
Similar to a CT scan but uses magnetism instead of x-rays to build up a detailed picture of areas of your body. An MRI scan can sometimes tell the difference between different types of body tissue more precisely than a CT scan.
Allows the doctor to examine the area at the center of the chest and the lymph nodes close to the lungs. Lymph nodes are glands that are found throughout the body, and are part of the body’s drainage system and help defend against disease. They are often the first place that cancer spreads to and so are usually checked for signs of cancer. A small cut is made through the skin at the base of the neck and a tube is passed into the chest. The tube has a light at the end and can magnify the areas it looks at. The doctor can see any abnormal areas and may also take samples of the cells and lymph nodes to examine under a microscope.
Similar to a mediastinoscopy, and involves making a small cut in the skin and inserting a telescope into another part of your chest to look directly at the cancer, and to take samples from it.
Can be done using a local anaesthetic to numb the area. A long needle is then passed through the skin into the lung. An x-ray is used to make sure that the needle is in the right position. A sample of cells is taken for examination under a microscope.
A PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography)
Uses low-dose radioactive sugar to measure the activity of cells in different parts of the body. A very small amount of a mildly radioactive substance is injected into a vein and a scan is then taken. Areas of cancer are usually more active than surrounding tissue so they take up more of the radioactive substance and show up on the scan. PET scans can be used to find whether a lung cancer has spread beyond the lung, or to examine any lumps that remain after treatment to see whether they are scar tissue or whether cancer cells are still present.
Scans which use sound waves to look at the liver and the other organs in the upper part of the abdomen. A small device like a microphone, which produces sound waves, is passed over the area. The sound waves are then converted into a picture by computer.