Tissue diagnosis of suspected lung cancer: Selecting between bronchoscopy, transthoracic needle aspiration, and resectional biopsy

Rex C W Yung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In pursuing a tissue diagnosis of a suspected lung cancer, there is a range of procedures to choose from. The principal goals are ideally to diagnose and pathologically stage the patient's lung cancer at the same time, preferably by using the safest, least invasive, and least costly tests. If there is clinical or radiographic evidence of extrapulmonary spread of disease, including supraclavicular N3 nodal involvement or a malignant pleural effusion, then radiology-guided or open biopsy will confirm tumor cell type and stage the patient as unresectable. For patients with symptoms, such as increasing cough or hemoptysis, that are suggestive of airways involvement, with or without radiographic finding of central lesions, sputum cytology is the least invasive study with a high specificity. A positive finding of cancer is especially helpful if the patient is not a surgical candidate because of anatomic location of the lesion or severe physiologic limitations. The limited sensitivity of sputum cytology and poor NPV may improve with improved sputum induction and collection and processing techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-76
Number of pages26
JournalRespiratory Care Clinics of North America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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