Getting Diagnosed

If you are concerned by your symptoms, your first port of call should be your family doctor, who may send you for a chest X-ray to determine if there are any abnormalities. If they are concerned by your symptoms, or if the chest X-ray shows anything out of the ordinary, you may then be referred to a Rapid Access Lung Clinic. There are eight of these located in different areas of Ireland and you will typically be seen within two weeks.

Staff at the clinic will examine you, take your medical history and possibly organise more tests and procedures.

These tests may include:

General testing

  • Blood tests: There are certain markers in the blood that are elevated when cancer is present. Looking at blood samples under the microscope also helps in terms of determining your overall health and potential fitness for surgery, if needed.
  • Pulmonary function test: This is a breathing test, where you will blow into a mouthpiece to check how well your lungs are functioning.
  • Imaging: This could include a CT (“cat”) scan which will provide a detailed X-ray picture of your lungs or a PET (positron emission tomography) scan, where a radioactive isotope is injected into the blood before scanning. Scans may also be taken of the brain by CT or MRI.
  • Bronchoscopy: This involves a long flexible tube with a camera on the end being passed into your airways so that doctors can view the tissues within your lung. An EBUS is a type of bronchoscopy that uses an ultrasound probe to look at the lungs and surrounding lymph nodes.
  • Biopsy: if a mass or potential growth is identified, a biopsy may be taken. During a CT scan or bronchoscopy, a sample of tissue may be taken from the growth using a very fine needle. This can then be looked at under the microscope to ascertain whether it is lung cancer and, if so, which type of lung cancer it is. A biopsy may be obtained by minor surgery if it cannot be obtained during other procedures.

Specific testing

  • Molecular testing: Tissue obtained via a biopsy can be tested to see if it contains any biomarkers – these can be mutations, additions, deletions, or rearrangements in your DNA found within the tumour. This can help doctors decide what the best treatment is for your specific type of lung cancer.