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Video: Stanley's Lung Cancer Story

To help determine a lung cancer diagnosis, one of Moffitt's thoracic oncology experts evaluates a patient's medical history,smoking history, exposure to environmental and occupational substances, and family history of cancer. The doctor also performs a physical exam and may order a chest X-ray and other tests. If lung cancer is suspected, the doctor must examine tissue from thelung before giving a lung cancerdiagnosis. A biopsy, the removal of a small sample of tissue for examination under a microscope by a pathologist, can show whether a person has cancer. A number of procedures may be used to obtain this tissue:

  • Bronchoscopy:  The doctor puts a bronchoscope (a thin, lighted tube) into the mouth or nose and down through the windpipe to look into the breathing passages. Through this tube, the doctor can collect cells or small samples of tissue.
  • Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS) is a minimally invasive procedure which allows a physician to perform a technique known as transbronchial needle aspiration to obtain tissue or fluid samples from the lungs and surrounding lymph nodes without conventional surgery. Advanced Pulmonary Services: A look at Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS)
  • Needle aspiration.  A needle is inserted through the chest into the tumor to remove a sample of tissue.
  • Thoracentesis.  Using a needle, the doctor removes a sample of the fluid that surrounds the lungs to check for cancer cells.
  • Thoracotomy.  Surgery to open the chest is sometimes needed to diagnose lung cancer. This procedure is a major operation performed in a hospital.

The vast majority of lung cancer diagnoses fall into one of three different categories:

  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is the most common lung cancer diagnosis – it is diagnosed in nearly 80 percent of all cases. This type grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is divided into three different subcategories: squamous cell carcinoma;  adenocarcinoma; and large cell carcinomas.
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer accounts for nearly 20 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses. It is associated with cancer cells smaller in size than most other cancer cells, but these cells can rapidly reproduce to form large tumors. Their size and quick rate of reproduction allows them to spread to the lymph nodes and to other organs.
  • Mesothelioma Cancer (cancer of the mesothelium) is a disease in which cells of the mesothelium become abnormal and divide without order or control. They can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Cancer cells can also metastasize (spread) from their original site to other parts of the body. Most cases of mesothelioma begin in the pleura or peritoneum.
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