Biopsy Techniques for Lung Cancer

A biopsy refers to the removal and examination of tissue and cells from a tumor or lymph node. This test is used to help make a diagnosis of lung cancer, as well as to determine the "stage" of a possible cancer. The sample of tissue or cells taken for a biopsy is sent to the pathologist who evaluates it. There are a few different ways to perform a biopsy.

The following techniques are used:

  • Bronchoscopy A pulmonologist (lung specialist) uses an endoscope (a device that consists of a tube and an optical system) to look down your bronchus and take tissue samples. For more information, click here.

  • Mediastinoscopy A surgeon makes a small incision just above your breastbone and uses a scope to look under your breastbone to take tissue samples. For more information, click here. 

  • Thoracoscopy A surgeon makes three small incisions on the side of your chest between your ribs and uses a scope to look at the lung and pleural spaces. Tissue samples are then taken. This kind a procedure requires a stay in the hospital. For more information, click here. 

  • Fine-Needle Aspiration A very thin needle attached to a syringe is inserted into a tumor to withdraw a small amount of cells. Many times an ultrasound or CT scan is used to help guide the needle to penetrate the tumor. Unfortunately, fine-needle aspiration is sometimes "non-diagnostic",  does not provide the information requires to make a diagnosis.  A negative result even may not be accurate when it indicates there is no cancer, since there is a chance the needle could miss the tumor. For more information, click here.

To learn more:
Interventional Pulmonology
Lung Cancer Management Team