The management of a malignant pleural effusion is different from the management of a nonmalignant effusion, so an accurate diagnosis is important. Diagnostic tests may include the following:
Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
CT scan: A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
Thoracentesis: The removal of fluid from the pleural cavity using a needle inserted between the ribs. This procedure may be used to reduce pressure on the lungs and/or to check the fluid under a microscope to see if cancer cells are present.
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. If thoracentesis is not possible, a biopsy may be done during a thoracoscopy, a surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the chest to check for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made between two ribs and a thoracoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into the chest. Samples are then taken for biopsy.
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