Diagnosis of Lung Cancer
Initial assessment of patients with symptoms is via the GP surgery before a diagnosis of lung cancer can be made. A GP may request a chest X-ray and blood tests. If a cough is productive, microscopic examination of the sputum may reveal cancer cells. Further investigations are usually hospital based, often after referral to a Chest Physician.
A diagnosis of lung cancer requires a tumour sample that can be examined microscopically. This is often obtained at bronchoscopy where a flexible telescope is passed into the lung.
Depending on the position of the tumour, a computed tomography (CT) guided lung biopsy may be performed. Alternatively, cancer cells are sometimes obtained from a lymph node or from pleural fluid.
In addition to a chest X-ray, patients also require a CT scan of the chest and abdomen in order to determine the extent of the tumour. Other scans, such as a brain scan or a bone scan, may be performed if symptoms indicate possible malignant involvement.