Understanding Reactive Lymph Nodes and Lung Cancer Tests

Understanding the pathology report is critical to confirm lung cancer. Doctors do lung cancer biopsies using samples and studying them under a microscope. Cancer specialists do a series of lab tests and diagnose to establish and detect cancer cells in the lungs and the following treatment as deemed appropriate by a lung cancer specialist.

Understanding Lungs Structures and Functions

Air inhaled through your mouth or the nose reaches your lungs through the trachea. Trachea is the windpipe of our body, and it branches out into two tubes. These tubes are called bronchus (singular is bronchi).

Bronchi divide into smaller branches known as bronchioles. Tiny air sacs called alveoli or acini are at the end of each bronchiole.

Understanding Reactive Lymph and Lymph Nodes

Lymph is a clear and water-like fluid containing WBC (white blood cells) to protect your body from infections. The lymph or lymphatic system is a part of the immune system comprising a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. Lymph vessels carry lymph.

Reactive lymph nodes are necessary for human bodies, which tirelessly work to protect you from infections through their lymphatic network. Lymphatic fluid in lymph nodes traps bacteria, viruses, and toxic pathogens. It stops the infection from spreading to other body parts.

Understanding Lung Cancer Tests

Doctors diagnose lung cancer by screening. Analyzing a sample of lung cells in the laboratory can detect lung cancer-causing health discomfort.

Doctors ask about your medical history to determine the symptoms and risk factors. They will examine the signs of lung cancer and health problems. If doctors suspect lung cancer, they will call for more tests, including imaging and lung biopsies.

Lung Cancer Imaging Tests

Various imaging tests used to confirm lung cancer include X-rays, sound waves, CT scans, magnetic fields, or radioactive substances to create images of the interiors of your body to check −

  • Probable areas containing cancer cells

  • Cancer spread

  • Treatments efficacy

  • Recurrence of post-treatment cancer signs

Tests For Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Lung cancer detection requires analysis of symptoms and specific test results. However, the doctor confirms lung cancer by examining the sample of lung cells in the lab. The doctor can take lung secretions samples, i.e., the mucus coughed up from the lungs, fluid extracted from the area around the lung (thoracentesis), or from the suspected section using a needle or biopsy (surgery).

Sputum Cytology

Doctors take a sample test of the sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs) for three consecutive days to see if any cancer cells are in there. It helps detect the first signs of cancer in the primary lungs’ airways, such as the squamous lung cancer cells.

This test may not be suitable for other lung cancer types. If doctors detect no cancer cells in the sputum and doctors still suspect lung cancer, they will carry out more tests.


Pleural effusion is the fluid collected around the lungs. The doctor may take some fluids to examine if cancer spreading to the lung lining (pleura) caused the fluid. Other conditions can also cause the fluids, such as heart failure or infections.

To carry out thoracentesis, doctors need to numb the skin to insert a hollow needle between the ribs to drain the fluid. Doctors test this drained-out fluid in the lab to identify cancer cells.

Doctors may carry out other tests of the fluid to differentiate between malignant pleural effusion and one that is not. If doctors find malignant pleural effusion causing problems with breathing, doctors carry out thoracentesis repeatedly by taking out more fluid that helps the patient to breathe better.

Needle Biopsy

Doctors use a hollow needle to insert in the suspected area to take a small sample mass. In a needle biopsy, doctors do not need a surgical incision. But doctors can remove a small amount of tissue, which might not be adequate for diagnosis, and carry more tests on the cancer cells to suggest effective anti-cancer drugs.

Needle Biopsy comes in many forms depending upon the doctors’ requirement to detect lung cancer cells.

  • Fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy - Transtracheal FBS & Transbronchial FNA

  • Core biopsy

  • Transthoracic needle biopsy

  • Bronchoscopy

Tests For Cancer Spread in the Chest

Post-detection of lung cancer, the doctor checks the spread of cancer to the reactive lymph nodes between the lungs and the adjacent areas. Doctors test the following tests to determine whether cancer spreads in the chest.

  • Endobronchial ultrasound

  • Endoscopic esophageal ultrasound

  • Mediastinoscopy & mediastinotomy

  • Thoracoscopy


For lung cancer, doctors conduct many other tests, including the lung function test, lab tests for biopsy and various samples, molecular tests for gene changes, tests for specific proteins on tumor cells, and two types of blood tests: A complete blood count (CBC) and Blood chemistry test. The information based on the final pathology report covering all parts of the lung is effective for lung cancer treatment.

Updated on: 24-Apr-2023


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