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How is non-small cell cancer diagnosed?

Non-small cell cancer is diagnosed after a number of increasingly invasive tests. Imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, are generally done first, and they allow the doctor to see lesions within your lungs. Your doctor may also look at the mucus (sputum) you cough up to see if any cancer cells are present. If imaging and sputum tests are not conclusive, your doctor may do a tissue biopsy, a procedure in which a needle is inserted into the possibly cancerous area to determine whether it is cancerous.

Tests that examine the lungs are used to detect (find), diagnose and stage non-small cell lung cancer. Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose and stage non-small cell lung cancer are often done at the same time. The following tests and procedures may be used:
  • A physical exam and history of your health habits, including smoking, and past jobs, illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan (CAT scan)
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)
  • Sputum cytology
  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
  • Bronchoscopyis
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Thoracentesis

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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.