Lung Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

22. What tests do doctors use to stage lung cancer?

Doctors can perform several tests to stage lung cancer. Staging means finding out how far the cancer has progressed. The following tests are used to stage lung cancer:

  • Computerized tomography or CAT scan is a computer linked to an x-ray machine that creates a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a powerful magnet linked to a computer that makes detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • Radionuclide scanning uses a mildly radioactive substance to show whether cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver.
  • A bone scan uses a small amount of a radioactive substance to show whether cancer has spread to the bones.
  • A mediastinoscopy or mediastinotomy can help show whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the chest by removing a tissue sample. The patient receives a general anesthetic for this procedure.