The common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Cough that does not disappear and that intensifies over time
- Chest pain
- Coughing with emission of blood
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing or hoarseness
- Recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis
- Swelling of the neck or face
- Appetite loss or weight loss
These symptoms may be caused by the development of lung cancer, but also due to other medical conditions. No test has yet been found for early detection of the disease. TTo detect the cause of symptoms, the patient’s medical history, smoking history, degree of exposure to substances in his surroundings or workplace and the history of cancer in his family must be found out.
The physician conducting the physical examination may order various imaging studies, such as a chest x-ray, computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These studies may show various tumors, accumulation of liquids and enlarged lymph nodes. In addition, a cytological sputum (phlegm) sample may be taken (a microscopic study that detects cancer cells in a sputum sample that is obtained by coughing deeply) and a blood test for markers can indicate the existence of lung cancer.
In order to confirm the existence of cancer, a tissue sample from the lungs themselves (biopsy) must be examined. A number of procedures may be used in order to obtain this tissue:
Bronchoscopes – in this study, the physician inspects the interior of the bronchi and takes cell samples (biopsies). The procedure is usually done with the help of a bronchoscope, a thin, flexible optic tube. The study is performed under local anesthesia. Sometimes, a rigid bronchoscope is used. In such a case, the study is performed under general anesthesia.
Needle aspiration – Insertion of a needle or syringe through the chest into the tumorand taking a specimen from the tissue. This study is usually performed in the radiology unit, usually during a CT study andunder local anesthesia, to anesthetize the area.
Thoracocentesis in this study,the physician uses a syringe to draw a sample of the fluid surrounding the lungs, to check for the presence of malignant cells.
Thoracoscopy/Medianoscopy using an illuminated optic instrument, the physician inspects the center of the chest and the nearby lymph nodes. The instrument is inserted through a small incision in the neck or chest. The physician inspects abnormal areas and may also take samples from cells and lymph nodes for microscopic inspection.
Thoracotomy – An operation in which the chest is opened is often required to diagnose lung cancer.