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Blog / Lung Health

What Does a Lung Biopsy Entail?

Aug. 29 2019 by Sheherzad Raza Preisler Blog Editor, PR, & Social Media Coordinator

Our lungs keep us alive by exchanging oxygen with carbon dioxide. When things in the lungs go awry–such as the development of cancer–it’s important to catch the disease early. Your chances of survival increase by about 51% if the disease is detected while it’s still confined to the lungs. This can be tricky, because the disease doesn’t always present signs until its later stages.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 in 15 men and 1 in 17 women will develop lung cancer at some point in their lifetimes; approximately 40% of all lung cancers are adenocarcinomas.

 If your doctor needs to determine whether or not you have lung cancer, they will typically perform a biopsy via an open or closed method. Open biopsies are done under general anesthesia, while closed biopsies are performed through the windpipe or skin. 

Types of the former include:

  • Open biopsy: during this procedure, a doctor will give you a general anesthetic then make an incision in your chest, surgically removing a piece of your lung tissue. You may also undergo more extensive surgery–like the removal of a lung lobe–depending on the result of your biopsy. This procedure involves a hospital stay. 
  • Thoracoscopic biopsy (sometimes called VATS biopsy): after you receive a general anesthetic, your doctor will insert an endoscope through your chest wall and into your chest cavity. Different types of biopsy tools can be placed through the endoscope to retrieve lung tissue for a closer look; this procedure may also involve therapeutic steps, such as the removal of tissue lesions or a nodule.

Types of the latter include:

  • Transbronchial biopsy: This procedure involves the use of a fiberoptic bronchoscope, which is a thin, long tube with a telescope on its end, allowing your doctor to take a closer look at your lungs’ main airways. 
  • Needle biopsy (sometimes called closed, percutaneous, or transthoracic biopsy): first, your doctor will give you a local anesthetic. Then, they will use a CT scan or fluoroscopy to guide a needle through your chest wall into the area of suspicion to retrieve a tissue sample. 

If you get diagnosed with lung cancer, there are various different treatment approaches for lung cancer that depend on the nature of the disease, as well as your individual case.