Numerous diagnostic tests are available to detect lung cancer. These tests are used to confirm the presence of lung cancer and to determine the stage of the disease.
Chest radiography (x-ray) is used to create an image of the organs and bones inside the chest. X-rays pass through the body and onto film, creating a photographic image. Although radiography is especially effective at detecting bony structures, images generated this way can also reveal abnormalities in other tissues, such as scarring and tumors in the lungs.
CT scanning is a procedure that uses x-rays to make a series of detailed images of the inside of the body, taken from different angles. This procedure is also called computerized tomography or computerized axial tomography. A contrast-enhancing dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to make organs or tissues show up more clearly. Final images of cross-sections of the body are made by computer processing of the actual x-ray images.
In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed images of areas inside the body. MRI provides better images of organs and soft tissue than other scanning techniques, such as CT or radiography. In lung cancer staging, MRI is used most often to detect brain metastases.
A positron emission tomography (PET) scan is an imaging procedure used to visualize malignant tumor cells in the body. A small quantity of radiolabeled glucose is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and creates computer-generated images of where glucose is being used in the body.
In images generated by PET scanning, malignant tumor cells appear brighter than the surrounding normal tissues because they are more metabolically active and take up more glucose than do normal cells. In lung cancer staging, PET is used to detect lymph node and distant metastases.
Bone scans are usually routinely conducted in patients with SCLC and are only performed in patients with NSCLC when other test results or symptoms suggest that the cancer has spread to the bone.
Radionuclide (bone) scanning is a diagnostic test used in SCLC to determine whether cancer cells have spread to the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.
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