Patient & Visitor InformationContact Us
  • Treatment Locations

    Rhode Island Hospital

    APC Building

    Providence, RI 02903

    866-401-0002

    . . . . . .

    The Miriam Hospital

    164 Summit Avenue

    Providence, RI 02906

    866-401-0002

  • Diagnosing Lung Cancer

  • There are tests your physician may order to determine whether you have lung cancer and what stage it is in. These tests include:

    • Chest x-ray - chest x-rays are useful for identifying the size, shape and location of a lung mass or other abnormality. This test is performed by the hospital's radiologists.
    • Laboratory tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body. These tests help to diagnose disease, plan and check treatment, or monitor the disease over time.
    • Sputum cytology: A procedure in which a pathologist views a sample of sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs) under a microscope.
    • Positron Emission Tomography (PET)/CT scan of the chest-PET/CT is particularly effective in identifying whether cancer is present or not, if it has spread, if it is responding to treatment, and if a person is cancer-free after treatment. Cancers for which PET/CT is considered particularly effective include lung, head and neck.  A small amount  of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.  PET/CT exams are scheduled at the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Rhode Island Hospital. For more information, visit rhodeislandhospital.org
    • Fine needle aspiration- during this test, a thin needle is inserted through the chest wall and cells are removed from the tumor. Many times this is done in a CT scanner to help the physician position the needle. The cells are then examined under a microscope by a pathologist to determine whether the tumor is malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous).
    • Bronchoscopy- this test may be done after an abnormality is seen on x-ray studies. A thin, lighted tube is passed through the nose or mouth to view the airways and lungs. A tissue sample may be taken during this test.  
    • Mediastinoscopy- during this test, a lighted tube is inserted through a small incision at the base of the neck, just above the breast bone. The mediastinoscope enables a physician to look at lymph nodes in the middle of the chest, or mediastinum. Tissue samples from the lymph nodes are taken, and examined to confirm a diagnosis of lung cancer. Mediastinoscopy is also used to help physicians determine the stage of cancer.
    • Mediastinotomy- an incision is made in the chest to examine lymph nodes that cannot be reached by the mediastinoscopy. Tissue samples may be taken of the lymph nodes.