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Diagnosis & Detection

Understanding the potential signs and symptoms of lung cancer can help detect it at an early stage. Many patients are diagnosed with lung cancer after finding a suspicious spot or abnormality through unrelated testing such as an X-ray or CT scan. Not every spot or mass turns out to be lung cancer, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. If it is cancer, early treatment can lead to better outcomes. 

Signs and symptoms

When symptoms of lung cancer appear, they can be mistaken for other problems. This often results in lung cancer not being diagnosed until it is already advanced. Some symptoms can be a sign of lung cancer and should be brought to the attention of your physician as soon as possible.

  • Chronic cough – A cough that you have had for a month is chronic. This is an important early symptom that tells you something is wrong with your respiratory system.

  • Shortness of breath – Shortness of breath that doesn’t go away after exercising, or that you have after little or no exertion is not normal. Labored or difficulty breathing is also a warning sign.

  • Chronic mucus production – Mucus, also called sputum or phlegm, is produced by the airways, It is a defense response to infections or irritants. If your mucus production has lasted a month, this could indicate lung disease.

  • Wheezing – Noisy breathing or wheezing is a sign that something unusual is blocking your lungs’ airways or making them too narrow.

  • Coughing up blood – If you are coughing up blood, the blood may be coming from your lungs or upper respiratory tract. Whatever the source of the blood, it is a sign of a health problem.

  • Chronic chest pain – Unexplained chest pain that lasts for a month or more, especially if it gets worse when you breathe in or cough, can also be a warning sign.

If you are experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, contact your physician.

Lung cancer screening

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that screening using a CT scan of the lungs can detect tumors early and reduce lung cancer death by up to 20 percent for smokers. Physicians and the American Society of Clinical Oncology recommend screening for high-risk individuals.


ProHealth Care cancer services offers a special screening program that includes a low-dose CT scan, consultation by a team of experts, access to tobacco cessation programs, and coordination of referrals to specialists if lung cancer is detected.


The scan uses low-dose X-rays to screen for cancer in just 30 seconds. The test is painless and does not require any preparation or fasting. The test is performed on a multi-slice spiral computed tomography (CT) scanner which can detect smaller nodules, potentially finding cancer earlier.


Your lung cancer screening will be reviewed and interpreted by a board-certified radiologist and the results given to you by our program coordinator. Depending upon the findings, continued screening or additional testing and treatment may be recommended. Your primary care physician will also receive the results.

Criteria for screening

You may be eligible for a lung cancer screening if you:

  • Are age 55 to 80

  • Have a history of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day (or more) for 30 years or longer.

Call 262-696-5535 to discuss the additional eligibility requirements and schedule an appointment.


There is a $99 fee for the screening and payment is due at the time of your appointment. Most insurance companies do not cover the cost of this specially priced CT scan. The cost may be an eligible medical expense if you have a flexible spending account.


ProHealth's D. N. Greenwald Center
240 Maple Ave.

ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital
791 Summit Ave.


ProHealth Medical Group
N16 W24131 Riverwood Dr.


ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital
725 American Ave.


There are a number of tests that can be used to diagnose a suspicious spot or mass on the lung and the tests conducted depend on each patient’s individual situation.  Factors considered include the location and size of the suspicious spot or mass and


When a situation is suspect and requires further testing, imaging becomes an important component to diagnose ovarian cancer and to evaluate the extent of the disease. These studies cannot confirm that a mass, if found, is cancer, but they may be useful in assessing the spread of ovarian cancer to other tissues and organs.

Chest X-ray – is valuable in identifying masses that need further testing.

Computed tomography (CT) scans – offer great clarity and can show various types of tissue, including blood vessels. CT not only confirms the presence of a tumor but can show its precise location, size and involvement with adjacent tissues.

PET/CT (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography) Scan – improves the accuracy of staging lung cancers and is especially useful in determining if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, liver, bones, adrenal glands, or some other organs.

Bronchoscopy – uses a flexible bronchoscope which is passed through the nose or mouth to see inside the lungs. It can be done under general anesthesia or with sedation. During a bronchoscopy, the physician can remove tissue samples for biopsy.

Super Dimension Bronchoscopy – is a minimally invasive procedure that allows the surgeon to biopsy lesions or masses from inside the lung rather than outside. It’s most effective in reaching lesions deep inside the lung and the lymph nodes in the area between the lungs which a traditional bronchoscope may not reach. This new technology is also useful for patients who aren’t good candidates for CT guided needle biopsy or a surgical biopsy.

CT Guided Needle Biopsy -- uses CT imaging to guide a needle through the skin into the lung to remove cells or tissue form the suspected mass or lymph node for biopsy. It is most effective for tumors located near the chest wall.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) – is a minimally invasive surgical procedure uses a scope inserted between the ribs to examine the lung. Other small instruments can also be inserted by the surgeon to remove tissue for biopsy or the mass itself. VATS procedures usually result in less pain and faster recovery times than traditional open surgical approaches.

Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) – uses an ultrasound probe at the end of a bronchoscope to help doctors see the mass they are biopsying to improve accuracy.