Lung Cancer Home > Lung Cancer Staging

Staging is a term that refers to determining the progression of lung cancer, if the cancer has spread, and, if so, to what other parts of the body. Knowing the stage can help the doctor plan appropriate treatment and monitor progression. Some tests used in staging lung cancer include CT scan, MRI, and bone radionuclide scanning.

Lung Cancer Staging: An Overview

If the doctor makes a lung cancer diagnosis, he or she will want to determine the stage (or extent) of the disease. Staging is conducted to find out whether lung cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body.

Tests Used in Staging Lung Cancer

Lung cancer staging helps the doctor plan the appropriate treatment. Some tests used to determine whether the cancer has spread include:
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Radionuclide scanning
  • Bone scan
  • Mediastinoscopy/mediastinotomy
  • PET scan.
CAT (CT) Scan
A computed tomography (CT) scan uses a computer linked to an x-ray machine to create a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tool uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
Radionuclide Scanning
Radionuclide scanning can show whether cancer has spread to other organs, such as the liver. The patient swallows or receives an injection of a mildly radioactive substance. A machine called a scanner measures and records the level of radioactivity in certain organs to reveal abnormal areas.
Bone Scan
A bone scan (one type of radionuclide scanning) can show whether cancer has spread to the bones. A small amount of radioactive substance is injected into a vein. It then travels through the bloodstream and collects in areas of abnormal bone growth. An instrument called a scanner measures the radioactivity levels in these areas and records them on x-ray film.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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