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Tests and procedures to diagnose and stage lung cancer

If lung cancer is suspected, your doctor will first ask questions about your personal and family medical history and order tests and procedures. A biopsy is the only way to confirm cancer.

Physical exam and history--the first steps in the process

Medical history and physical examination for lung cancer (WebMD)

Biopsy procedures--tissue can be removed for examination in a variety of ways

Bronchoscopy (MedlinePlus)

Needle biopsy (

Surgery--by thoractomy, thoracoscopy, or mediastinoscopy (Thoracic Surgery Associate's

Thoracentesis (WebMD)

Laboratory and pathology tests

Blood, tissue (American Cancer Society), and urine tests (Medline Plus)

Imaging tests

Computerized tomography (CT) scan (

Positron emission tomography (PET) scan and CT/PET (

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the chest and brain (

Bone scan (

Pulmonary function tests

Lung function tests (WebMD)


Emerging tests and procedures to detect and diagnose lung cancer

Researchers are exploring promising new ways to detect and diagnose lung cancer.

Sputum tests

Simple diagnostic test detects genetic signs of lung cancer in sputum (MedicalNews)


EarlyCDT-Lung  (Oncimmune Ltd)

Sniffer dogs and electronic noses

Mulloch et al. 2012. Lung cancer detection by canine scent: Will there be a lab in the lab? European Respiratory Journal 39(3):511-2.