What is included in a staging workup for non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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Because of the importance of stage in the therapeutic decision-making process, all patients with non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) must be staged adequately. A complete staging workup for NSCLC should be carried out to evaluate the extent of disease. In the United States, the standard staging workup for NSCLC includes 7 main components (see the table below).

Staging workup for non–small cell lung cancer. Staging workup for non–small cell lung cancer.

Information obtained from these tests can then be used to guide further testing (eg, imaging studies). Invasive staging procedures such as mediastinoscopy and mediastinotomy may be required to assess mediastinal lymph nodes in patients who are candidates for potentially curative surgical resection. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans may be useful in the detection of involved nodes, the presence of which may influence decisions about operability.

A study by Annema et al determined that among patients with suspected NSCLC, a combination of endosonography and surgical staging had a greater sensitivity for mediastinal nodal metastases than surgical staging alone. [44] This resulted in fewer unnecessary thoracotomies.

See Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Staging for summary tables.

See Lung Cancer Staging -- Radiologic Options, a Critical Images slideshow, to help identify stages of the disease process.

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