What can you expect from your doctor?
Explain to your doctor as best as you can the symptoms you are experiencing and/or the risk factors you have.
You can expect the following tests to help diagnose lung cancer:
1. Medical record
You can expect your doctor to ask you questions about your:
- Health problems
- Risk factors
- Treatments received
- Medications taken
- Medical history of your family, such as your parents, grandparents, and siblings
- Whether you are a person who smokes or has smoked in the past: You can calculate the total amount smoked, referred to as pack years, by using this formula: Packets per day x Number of years smoked.
2. Physical exam
You can expect your doctor to do the following:
- Look for signs and symptoms of lung cancer.
- Measure your temperature, weight, pulse, blood pressure, and breathing rate.
- Examine your lungs, heart, gut, nose, ears, mouth, eyes, and skin.
- Assess your ability to do daily activities.
3. Blood tests
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist to do the following laboratory tests:
- Complete blood count (CBC) – This test measures parts of the blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
- Biochemistry profile – This test measures how the kidneys, liver, bone, and other organs are working.
4. Diagnostic Imaging Tests
Your specialist may request the following imaging tests:
- X-ray – An image from the use of x-rays.
- CT scan – An image from the combination of x-rays and computer technology.
- PET scan – A highly sensitive image from nuclear medicine that can detect small changes in your body. This is typically done after diagnosis.
- MRI scan – An image from the combination of strong magnetic fields and radio waves.
5. Tissue samples
Your specialist may request one of the following tissue samples in order to determine if you have lung cancer and what type it is:
- Biopsy – Where a small amount of tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
- Cytology – Where cells are examined under a microscope. It is usually fluid removed with a needle.
6. Biomarker tests
These tests are only done for specific types of lung cancer. Your specialist may request more laboratory tests to see if you have any biomarkers in your lung tumour. Biomarkers can also sometimes be assessed in a blood sample.
These will help your specialist to discuss the best treatment options specifically for you. Please talk to your specialist to check if your tumour should be tested for biomarkers.