Initial tests for lung cancer
To investigate abnormal symptoms, the first test is usually an x-ray, often followed by a CT scan. You may also have a test to check how your lungs are working and blood tests to check your overall health.
Learn more about these initial tests:
A chest x-ray is painless and can show tumours 1 cm wide or larger. Small tumours may not show up on an x-ray or may be hidden by other organs within the chest cavity. After a chest x-ray, you may need more detailed tests.
A CT (computerised tomography) scan uses x-ray beams to take many pictures of the inside of your body and then a computer compiles them into a cross-sectional picture. This method can detect smaller tumours than those found by chest x-rays, and provides detailed information about the tumour, the lymph nodes in the chest, and other organs.
CT scans are usually done at a hospital or radiology clinic. You may be asked to fast (not eat or drink) for several hours before the scan to make the pictures clearer and easier to read. Before the scan, you will be given an injection of dye into a vein in your arm. This dye is known as the contrast and it makes the pictures clearer. The contrast may make you feel hot all over and leave a bitter taste in your mouth, and you may feel a sudden urge to pass urine, but these sensations won’t last long.
The CT scanner is a large, doughnut-shaped machine. You will lie flat on a table that moves in and out of the scanner. The scan is painless and takes only 10-20 minutes, but you will also need to prepare for and wait for the scan.
I think the doctors knew I had cancer based on the shadow on my CT scan. But they didn’t tell me right away. I had to wait two weeks until I had a bronchoscopy and wash.
|Before having scans, tell the doctor if you have any allergies or have had a reaction to contrast during previous scans. You should also let them know if you are diabetic, have kidney disease or are pregnant.|
This test checks how well the lungs are working. It measures how much air the lungs can hold and how quickly the lungs can be filled with air and then emptied. You will be asked to take a full breath in and blow out into a machine called a spirometer.
A sample of your blood will be tested to check the number of cells (full blood count) and to see how well your kidneys and liver are working.
Dr Henry Marshall, Thoracic Physician, The University of Queensland Thoracic Research Centre, The Prince Charles Hospital, QLD; Dr Naveed Alam, Thoracic Surgeon, St Vincent’s Melbourne and Epworth Richmond Hospitals, VIC; A/Prof Martin Borg, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, SA; Dr Lisa Briggs, Consumer; Kirsten Mooney, Thoracic Cancer Nurse Coordinator, WA Cancer & Palliative Care Network, WA; Claire Mulvihill, Lung Cancer Support Nurse, Lung Foundation Australia; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; A/Prof Nick Pavlakis, President, Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group, President Elect, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, and Senior Staff Specialist, Department of Medical Oncology, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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