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Lung cancer diagnosis

If your healthcare provider believes you may have lung cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure.

You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

He or she will also give you a physical exam.

  • Screening

    Lung cancer screening is recommended for patients who are at high risk for lung cancer. Low-dose CT screenings are recommended for patients who:

    • Are between the ages 50 and 80.
    • Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years.
    • Have a 20 pack-year smoking history, meaning the patient smokes one pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years, or two packs per day for 10 years.
  • Imaging tests

    • Computer tomography (CT) scan. CT scans are most useful for detecting the stage of the cancer being diagnosed. The scan’s results tell your doctor if the cancer has spread to your lungs, liver or other organs. Low-dose CT screening is common to detect lung cancer at an early stage for those who qualify.
    • X-ray. An X-ray image at the site of the cancer may reveal abnormalities that your healthcare providers are searching for.
  • Biopsy

    A biopsy removes tissue or cells from the lung to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope. Results from a biopsy help determine if cells are cancer.

    A lung biopsy is done with local anesthesia, which is medicine that numbs the area of the lung where a needle will be inserted.

    A biopsy may be performed with imaging guidance. Ask your provider about your specific type of biopsy to learn more.

  • Test results

    Patients will be contacted after a biopsy by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

  • Second opinions

    When you are diagnosed with lung cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

    Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent lung cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care.

    Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the one and only NCI-designated cancer program in Kentucky, Markey can serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including lung cancer.

    Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

    Should I get a second opinion?

    A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating lung cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

    • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
    • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
    • There may be uncertainty around the stage of lung cancer.
    • You may want to learn more about different treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.
    • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.

    Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

    After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

    • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
    • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
    • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
    • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
    • What are the side effects of treatment?
    • How long are treatment recovery periods?