Advertisement

What tests are involved in staging lung cancer?

Staging is the process of finding out if and how far lung cancer has spread. The treatment plan and prognosis depend on the stage of the cancer. A staging system is a standard way for doctors to describe how large a cancer is and how far it has spread. The stage is based on the results of the physical exam, biopsies and imaging tests.

The TNM staging system for lung carcinoid tumors and non-small cell lung is used to describe the:

  • Tumor
  • Nodes (lymph nodes)
  • Metastasis (if the cancer has spread)

Small cell lung cancer may also be staged as limited versus extensive. In the limited stage, the cancer is only in one lung and perhaps in lymph nodes on the same side of the chest, an area that is small enough to be treated with radiation.

If the cancer has spread to the other lung, to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest or to distant organs, it is called extensive. Many doctors also consider cancer that has spread to the fluid around the lung as extensive stage.

Dr. Brian D. Mott, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Most commonly lung cancer is staged clinically first with CT scans, PET scans, and Brain MRI. There are then possible staging procedures done like bronchoscopy, endobronchial ultrasound, mediastinoscopy, and finally VATS procedures. These are usually done to see if someone has advanced disease that would make surgery not indicated. The final staging is done after surgery by the pathologist who examines the type of cancer, the size and invasiveness of the tumor, and if any regional lymph nodes are involved. This allows the calculation of the TNM stage from 1 through 4.

Continue Learning about Lung Cancer

Differences Between Small Cell and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Differences Between Small Cell and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Lung cancers fall into two broad categories, small cell and non-small cell. Of the two, non-small cell is more common, accounting for 85 percent of ca...
Read More
How can I reduce my risk of lung cancer if I'm a nonsmoker?
Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical CenterPresbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center
Don't ever start smoking. Avoid circumstances where you might be exposed to secondhand smoke, like f...
More Answers
Where in the body can lung cancer spread?
Good Samaritan HospitalGood Samaritan Hospital
Lung cancer can spread to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes. Doctors use mostly surgica...
More Answers
How Has Lung Cancer Surgery Changed Through the Years?
How Has Lung Cancer Surgery Changed Through the Years?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.