Skip Navigation
Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, our lung experts provide the latest technologies for lung cancer screening and diagnosis, staging and treatment. This may include robot-assisted minimally invasive lung biopsy and other minimally invasive or noninvasive surgical procedures resulting in shorter recovery times.

To detect and diagnose lung cancer, our doctors perform a thorough physical exam to look for lung problems, swollen lymph nodes or signs of lung cancer. They also ask questions about your past health and any possible lung cancer symptoms you may have noticed. From there, your doctor will recommend additional testing if he or she suspects the presence of cancer.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

There are several tests your doctor may order to determine a lung cancer diagnosis:

  • Chest X-ray: An X-ray can show masses (growths) on the lungs. Your doctor will then order further testing to determine whether a mass is cancerous.
  • CT scan: A computed tomography scan is another tool for detecting cancer. A CT scan uses X-rays and dyes in the veins to make pictures of structures inside the body.

If any of these initial tests show signs of lung cancer, your doctor may recommend further testing. One innovative technology we use is robot-assisted minimally invasive lung biopsy, or robotic bronchoscopy. Using the robot together with 3D imaging, we can steer a thin and flexible tube fitted with a camera to safely reach all 18 segments of the lungs and obtain a biopsy. Other minimally invasive or noninvasive surgical procedures we use include:

  • Biopsy: Your doctor removes cells or tissues so a pathologist can view them under a microscope.
  • Bone scan: For a bone scan, a technician will inject a radioactive tracer substance into a vein in your arm. The tracer then travels through the bloodstream and into the bones. This can help your doctor see whether the cancer has spread to your bones.
  • Bronchoscopy: A procedure that allows your doctor to look at your airway through a thin scope called a bronchoscope. This lets your doctor see problems with the airway, lungs or lymph nodes in the chest.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound: The University of Kansas Cancer Center is one of the few providers in the Kansas City region offering endoscopic ultrasound. EUS combines endoscopy and ultrasound to help detect cancer behind the breastbone or in lymph nodes in the chest area.
  • InReach™ System: Some cancer lesions are beyond the reach of most bronchoscopes. A tool called the InReach System lets our pulmonologists look deep into the lungs to access cancers when they’re small and potentially easier to treat. We can even use this tool in people who can’t have more invasive surgery. With this system, doctors can biopsy anywhere in the lung. This can mean earlier diagnosis and better outcomes.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: An MRI uses magnetic waves and computer imaging to show the size and location of lung tumors.
  • Mediastinoscopy: Your doctor takes biopsies of lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer has spread to the chest behind the breastbone (mediastinum).
  • Positron emission tomography scan: The PET scan uses a special camera to take images of the lungs and check for cancer. PET scans can be so accurate that they can sometimes make a biopsy unnecessary.
  • Robotic bronchoscopy: A minimally invasive, robot-assisted procedure that allows physicians to biopsy suspicious abnormalities detected deep within the lungs.
  • Sputum cytology: Your doctor looks at your mucus to check for any abnormal cells.
  • Thoracentesis: Your doctor uses a needle to remove a sample of fluid between your lungs and chest wall to look for abnormalities.
  • Thoracoscopy: Your doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube through a small incision between 2 ribs to get a better look at areas that appeared abnormal in an imaging test. During this procedure, your doctor may also take a biopsy.
  • Transthoracic needle aspiration biopsy: Your doctor inserts a needle through the chest wall to remove a sample of lung tissue. Your doctor usually does this type of biopsy if the abnormal lung tissue is located close to the chest wall. The doctor also may use ultrasound or fluoroscopy to help guide the needle to the right spot.

Lung cancer screening

Research shows that a low-dose CT scan is the most successful approach to detecting lung cancer in those at risk. This type of X-ray is so advanced and shows such detailed images that it can reveal abnormalities as small as a grain of rice. Finding a tumor when it’s smaller means the cancer is less likely to have spread, and also improves the chances of effective treatment.

Lung cancer screening location

Indian Creek Campus
10710 Nall Ave.
Overland Park, KS 66211

Start your path today.

Your journey to health starts here. Call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Related links