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Thoracic cancer

Diagnosis of thoracic cancer

If you have several risk factors for thoracic cancer, such as family history, workplace exposures, or history of smoking, your doctor may recommend preventive screenings even if you do not have symptoms. Screening checks typically involve chest x-rays or other imaging tests to look for any abnormalities.

Other cases are diagnosed after symptoms. Some standard diagnostic tests include:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Physical examination, including listening to your lungs and talking with you about any unusual symptoms you’ve noticed
  • CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, bone scans, and other imaging tests to look for abnormalities in your chest cavity
  • Sputum analysis to see whether cells from the mucus you cough up from your lungs show evidence of cancer
  • Thoracentesis to analyze any fluid that has built up in the lungs (also called pleural effusion)
  • Biopsies to test small tissue samples and look for malignancy (cancer)
  • Bronchoscopy, thoracoscopy, mediastinoscopy, or mediastinotomy: these are all tests that use a small tube with a camera on the end to give your doctor a close-up view of structures in your chest
  • Lung function tests to measure how well your lungs are providing oxygen to your blood. This test is typically undertaken after a diagnosis of lung cancer. Since a common treatment for lung cancer is to remove part of the lung, a function test can help your doctor evaluate whether surgery would maintain enough lung function and if you’re healthy enough for it.


Thoracic cancer treatment options vary according to the type of cancer you have. Surgery is a standard treatment. Your doctor may also recommend the following treatments:

  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing
  • Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors
  • Targeted therapy to destroy cancer by using markers present only on cancer cells

There is no sure way to prevent cancer. However, minimizing risk factors you can control, such as smoking, diet, and alcohol use, is an excellent place to start.

Some people develop the disease even if they do not have any known risk factors. Talk to your doctor to learn more about personalized treatment for thoracic cancer.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.