St. Anthony’s Cancer Care Center


Diagnosis is the first crucial step on the way to recovery. Perhaps you've been experiencing chest pain, or you've been having trouble breathing. If you have symptoms you think may indicate lung cancer, you should be diagnosed by a physician experienced in cancer care.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, speak with your doctor. These symptoms may indicate cancer or another condition, so it is important to get diagnosed quickly and accurately.

Symptoms include:

  • a persistent or worsening cough
  • feeling short of breath
  • constant chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • a hoarse voice
  • frequent pneumonia
  • lethargy (feeling tired)
  • sudden weight loss

Lung Cancer Diagnostic Tests

At St. Anthony's Cancer Care Center, we know that sometimes the hardest part of the diagnosis phase is waiting for an answer. We strive to complete all of your testing as quickly as possible, so if the diagnosis is cancer, you can begin treatment immediately.

The first part of the diagnosis phase is a medical history and performing a thorough physical examination. Your doctor will listen to you breathe to hear if there is fluid in your lungs. Then, your doctor will likely order other tests and imaging scans.

Imaging Tests Used to Diagnose Lung Cancer

Your doctor will probably order one or more imaging tests to get a detailed picture of the inside of your body. These tests include:

  • Low-dose, computed tomography (CT) scan, for early detection of lung cancer in high-risk patients
  • Endobronchial ultrasound, which helps doctors explore the lymph nodes located between the two lungs
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses high-powered X-rays to get a picture from several angles
  • Magnetic resonance imaging  (MRI) scan, which uses powerful magnetic waves to obtain a detailed image
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which uses a short-lived radioactive substance to produce a three-dimensional image

Other Diagnostic Tests

  • Sputum cytology:Your doctor asks you to cough and sends the thick fluid (sputum) to a lab for analysis. A pathologist checks the sputum for evidence of cancer cells.
  • Bronchoscopy:Your doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube called a bronchoscope down your throat in order to examine your lungs. Your doctor may also be able to remove a sample of cells to send for analysis.
  • Thoracic navigational bronchoscopy: Your doctor uses tiny instruments to reach and explore nodules at the periphery of the lungs.
  • Fine-needle aspiration: Using a thin needle, your doctor removes tissue or fluid from your lung.
  • Surgical procedures: Sometimes, your doctor needs to perform a more major surgical procedure in order to obtain tissue sample and confirm a diagnosis. If this is the case, your doctor will explain to you exactly what you can expect from the procedure and recovery process.
  • Blood tests