Your doctor may suspect lung cancer based on
To look for evidence of cancer, your doctor will examine you, paying special attention to your lungs and chest. He or she will order imaging tests to check your lungs for masses. In most cases, a chest x-ray will be done first. If the x-ray shows anything suspicious, a CT scan will be done. As the scanner moves around you, it takes many pictures. A computer then combines the images. This creates a more detailed image of the lungs, allowing doctors to confirm the size and location of a mass or tumor.
You may also have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. MRI scans provide detailed pictures of the body's organs, but they use radio waves and magnets to create the images, not x-rays. PET scans look at the function of tissue rather than anatomy. Lung cancer tends to show intense metabolic activity on a PET scan. Some medical centers offer combined PET-CT scanning.
If cancer is suspected based on these images, more tests will be done to make the diagnosis, determine the type of cancer, and see if it has spread. These tests may include the following:
Occasionally, surgery is done to remove the tumor first; the diagnosis is made after the tumor has been examined in a laboratory.
Some studies have examined the use of CT scanning to try to diagnose lung cancers earlier. Although CT can detect abnormalities in the lungs before they cause symptoms, the abnormalities are not always cancer. In addition, studies have not shown that this type lung cancer screening improves patients' prognosis or survival.
After the cancer has been diagnosed, it is assigned a "stage." The stages of squamous cell carcinoma reflect the tumor's size and how far the cancer has spread. Stages I through III are further divided into A and B categories.
Page 3 of 9 Next Page: Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lung Expected Duration
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.