Lung Cancer

Staging

If the diagnosis is lung cancer, the doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of the lung cancer. Staging for lung cancer is done to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Lung cancer often spreads to the brain or bones. Knowing the stage of the lung cancer helps the doctor plan treatment. Some tests used to determine whether the cancer has spread include:

  • CAT (or CT) scan (computed tomography). A computer linked to an x-ray machine creates a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A powerful magnet linked to a computer makes detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • Radionuclide Scanning. Scanning can show whether cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver. The patient swallows or receives an injection of a mildly radioactive substance. A machine (scanner) measures and records the level of radioactivity in certain organs to reveal abnormal areas.
  • Bone Scan. A bone scan, one type of radionuclide scanning, can show whether cancer has spread to the bones. A small amount of radioactive substance is injected into a vein. It travels through the bloodstream and collects in areas of abnormal bone growth. An instrument called a scanner measures the radioactivity levels in these areas and records them on x-ray film.
  • Mediastinoscopy/Mediastinotomy. A mediastinoscopy is used in the staging process to help show whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the chest. Using a lighted viewing instrument, called a scope, the doctor examines the center of the chest (mediastinum) and nearby lymph nodes. In mediastinoscopy, the scope is inserted through a small incision in the neck; in mediastinotomy, the incision is made in the chest. In either procedure, the scope is also used to remove a tissue sample. The patient receives a general anesthetic.

To learn more anout the stages of lung cancer and the treatments used, please take the time to explore this site and visit our message board.

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