How Lung Cancer is Staged

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If cancer is present, the doctor will want to determine whether it has spread to other parts of the body, and this is what is referred to as staging. Lung cancer often spreads to the brain or bones. Staging helps the doctor decide on a plan for treatment.

Lung Cancer Staging Methods

  • CAT or CT Scan (computed tomography) A computer connected to an x-ray machine takes a series of detailed pictures of particular areas inside the body.
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) A powerful magnet linked to an x-ray machine takes detailed pictures of areas of interest inside the body.
    • Radionuclide Scanning This type of scan can see other areas of the body that the cancer may have spread to. The person swallows a mildly radioactive liquid which, when scanned, will reveal the level of radioactivity in certain organs, which will help identify abnormal areas.
    • Bone Scan This scan will show whether the cancer has spread to the bones. A mildly radioactive is injected into a vein, and it will collect in abnormal bone areas, which will be detectable on the scan.
    • Mediastinoscopy/Mediastinotomy This procedure is done under general anesthesia, and will help the doctor find out whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. A lighted viewing instrument, called a scope is inserted through a small incision in the neck(mediastinoscopy) to view the center of the chest and nearby lymph nodes. If the incision is made in the chest, the procedure is called mediastinotomy. A small tissue sample is taken in either of these two procedures.
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