Carcinoid tumours of the lung may often be diagnosed when a person is investigated for symptoms suggestive of lung disease. If a person has signs or symptoms indicative of a lung pathology or disease, the doctor will take a complete medical history including past history, history of smoking and family history. The doctor will examine you and pay close attention to your chest and lungs.
If your symptoms or physical examination indicate a lung carcinoid, tumour might be present and the doctor shall conduct further tests. Some tests, which might be done include imaging tests (such as chest X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan of the chest), lab tests and other procedures.
Chest x-ray: This is usually the first test that is done when any type of lung disease is suspected. It may show if there is an infection or tumour in the lung. If the lesion, however, is small or is in place where it is covered by other organs in the chest, it may not be seen on the chest x-ray.
CT scan (computed tomography scan): This is a painless and non-invasive test, which provides greater visual detail than a chest X-ray and can detect smaller tumours and other lesions in the lung. During CT scan, a series of detailed pictures of different parts of the body that is being examined is taken.A computer then combines these pictures into images of the parts of the body that is being studied. The doctor examines the images for abnormalities and can see if there is a cancerous growth, infection or any other pathology. CT scan is useful to stage the tumour (determine the extent of spread and size of tumour).
MRI: This is a painless and non-invasive test, which provides greater visual detail of the part that is being examined than CT scan. It takes a series of detailed pictures of part of the body that is being examined the way CT scan does and can show small cancerous growth or abnormalities that may not be seen on CT scan.
Radionuclide scans: For radionuclide scans, you will be given a very small amount of radioactive material. The radioactive material is taken up by the carcinoid tumour, which makes it show up on a picture taken by special cameras. This scan can help determine the extent of the tumour as well as the location of the tumour (if the doctor isn’t sure about the location of tumour in the body).
Biopsy: This is a confirmatory test to diagnose whether the mass is a carcinoid tumour, some other type of lung cancer or an infection. Your doctor will take a tissue from the mass or growth and look for cancer cells.The tissue sample is examined by a pathologist (doctor who specialises in diagnosing diseases by looking at cells and tissues under a microscope) for cancerous changes.
These are some tests that may be done if you have symptoms suggestive of lung cancer. If you are diagnosed with carcinoid tumour of lung/s, tests will be done to determine the stage of cancer as well. Staging helps to decide a treatment and predict the prognosis.