If initial screenings indicate that lung cancer may be present, your doctor will conduct further tests to confirm a diagnosis.

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Signs & Symptoms

Most lung cancer symptoms appear in the chest and affect breathing. These include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Constant chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Recurring pneumonia, bronchitis or other lung infections
  • Bloody or rust-colored phlegm
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling of the neck
  • Pain or weakness in the shoulder, arm or hand
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight

However, there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of lung cancer, which means getting screened can be life saving. If you have a history of smoking, and especially if you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms, talk to your doctor. He or she will perform a screening for lung cancer to determine if your symptoms are a sign of lung cancer.

Diagnostic Capabilities

Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy

Least Invasive Lung Procedure to Diagnose Lesions

An Electromagnetic Navigation Bronchoscopy (ENB) procedure called superDimension® combines GPS-like technology with a small scope that's passed through the airways to access hard-to-reach lesions. This innovative and minimally invasive approach aids in diagnosis of lung disease and leads to earlier, more personalized treatment, potentially saving lives.

MRI Scan

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a scan that uses radio waves and strong magnetic fields to create images of the inside of the body. You will need to remain very still during the procedure. Doctors use MRIs to determine the stage of the cancer and how far the cancer has spread. MRIs also help doctors visualize the treatment’s progress.

PET Scan

To conduct a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, the doctor injects a sugar-based radioactive tracer. The tracer couples with cancer cells and emits radioactive signals that the PET scan system reads. It turns these readings into images that doctors use to find the cancer.



A biopsy is the removal of a small amount of tissue to test for disease. In the case of lung cancer, there are different types of biopsies your doctor may choose to perform.

  • Needle biopsy: During a needle biopsy, doctors use x-ray or CT imaging to guide a hollow needle through the chest and into the lung to collect small tissue samples.
  • Bronchoscopy: A bronchoscope is a small tube with a light, camera and claw at the end that doctors use to explore the throat and lungs and obtain small tissue samples.
  • Mediastinoscopy: The mediastinum is the membrane between the the lungs and behind the breastbone. During a mediastinum, the doctor will make a small incision at the base of the neck and insert a thin scope to collect tissue samples from the lymph nodes in the mediastinum.

Your doctor will send any tissue samples removed during the biopsy to a laboratory. A pathologist will search for cancer cells in the samples under a microscope.

Pathology Report

The pathologist who studied the biopsy will send a report to your doctor. This report will contain information on the type of cancer and a grade based on the how abnormal the cells look. The report will also include predictions on how likely the cancer is to grow, spread throughout the body and recur after treatment. Your doctor will use this information to craft a tailored treatment plan.