Biopsy

A biopsy involves the removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. There are several different ways a biopsy can be done to check for lung cancer.

Fine-Needle Aspiration (FNA)
In fine-needle aspiration, tissue from small lesions close to the chest wall or fluid from the lung is removed using a thin needle. A computed tomography, or CT, scan, ultrasound, or other imaging procedure is used to find the abnormal tissue or fluid in the lung. A small incision may be made in the skin where the biopsy needle is inserted into the abnormal tissue or fluid. A sample is removed with the needle and sent to the laboratory to be examined under a microscope. A chest x-ray is done after the procedure to make sure no air is leaking from the lung into the chest.

Bronchoscopy
This procedure allows the provider to look inside the trachea and bronchi for abnormal areas. A thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end, called a bronchoscope, is passed through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. Tools can be passed through the bronchoscope to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. Tissue samples from lymph nodes can be taken at the same time.

Thoracoscopy
Thoracoscopy is a surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the chest. This procedure is typically used for treatment rather than diagnosis. An incision is made between two ribs, and a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end, called a thoracoscope, is inserted through the incision. Tools may be passed through the thoracoscope to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.

Thoracentesis
This is a procedure used when a patient has pleural effusion, or a fluid buildup in the space between the lining of the chest and the lung, that is suspected of containing cancer cells. This fluid is removed using a needle and examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

Mediastinoscopy
This is a surgical procedure around the trachea to look at the organs, tissues, and lymph nodes between the lungs for abnormal areas. An incision is made at the top of the breastbone, and a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end, called a mediastinoscope, is inserted through the incision. Tools can be passed through the mediastinoscope to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.