Tests for lung cancer

There are a number of different tests used to diagnose lung cancer. You usually start by seeing your GP if you have symptoms. They examine you and might refer you for tests or to a specialist.

You might have one or more of these tests to find out the cause of your symptoms, or to find out the size of your cancer and whether it has spread. This tells you the stage of your cancer.

Knowing the stage helps your doctor decide which treatment you need. 

Chest x-ray for lung cancer

A chest x-ray can help to diagnose lung cancer. It can also check whether a lung cancer has spread. 

CT scan for lung cancer

A CT scan can help to diagnose lung cancer and see if it has spread outside of the lung.

MRI scan for lung cancer

An MRI scan uses magnetism and radio waves to create cross section pictures of the body. It can help to diagnose lung cancer and see if it has spread.

Bronchoscopy for lung cancer

A bronchoscopy is a test that looks at the inside of the breathing tubes (airways) in your lungs. If any areas look abnormal, biopsies can be taken. 

Endobronchial ultrasound for lung cancer

An endobronchial ultrasound can help diagnose lung cancer. It can also show if the cancer has spread into other areas of the lung or outside the lung.

Endoscopic ultrasound for lung cancer

An endoscopic ultrasound can check whether lung cancer has spread into the lymph nodes in the centre of the chest close to the wind pipe.

Biopsy through the skin for lung cancer

This test is called a percutaneous lung biopsy. Your doctor takes a sample of lung tissue by passing a needle into the lung. 

Surgical biopsy for lung cancer

A surgical biopsy of the lung is a test that can help to diagnose lung cancer. A small sample of lung tissue is taken to be examined under a microscope. 

Neck lymph node ultrasound and biopsy for lung cancer

This test checks whether there are lung cancer cells in the lymph nodes in your neck. 

Mediastinoscopy for lung cancer

A mediastinoscopy is a test that examines the centre of your chest. It can see if cancer cells have spread into the lymph nodes around the windpipe.

Testing for gene mutations in lung cancer

Some lung cancers have gene changes (mutations) that alter the way cancer grows. A biopsy can be sent to the lab to check for gene changes. 

Bone scan when you have lung cancer

A bone scan is a test that is done to see if lung cancer has spread to the bone. Find out more about this test. 

Ultrasound scan when you have lung cancer

An abdominal ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to create a picture of a part of the body. It can check if lung cancer has spread.

PET-CT scan for lung cancer

A PET-CT scan can help to show exactly where the cancer is in your lung and whether it has spread elsewhere in the body.

Last reviewed: 
26 Sep 2019
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