Detection & Diagnosis

Tracheal and bronchial tumors can be difficult to identify. Early signs and symptoms may progress incrementally over time and are often mistaken for a variety of other respiratory disorders, such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Because the symptoms of benign and malignant tumors of the airway are very similar, it is difficult to diagnose the type of tumor based solely on symptoms. Additional tests are required to help assess and diagnose tracheal and bronchial tumors.

Mount Sinai's voice and swallowing disorders team, which includes physicians and speech pathologists, provides a comprehensive voice and swallowing evaluation to diagnose airway disorders.

Tests we use to diagnose and stabilize the airway include:

  • CT scan (CAT scan). This imaging technique aids in visualizing the location and extent of a tumor before more invasive diagnostic procedures are performed. This information is critical in determining whether the patient may be a candidate for surgery or other treatments.
  • Laryngoscopy. A flexible, narrow tube (endoscope) that has a camera on the tip is inserted through the mouth into the windpipe to examine the upper portion of the airway. 
  • Bronchoscopy. An endoscope designed for the airway is inserted through the mouth into the windpipe to examine the trachea and bronchi. Either a rigid or flexible bronchoscope can be used to diagnose and deliver treatments to tracheal and bronchial tumors.
  • Biopsy. A small sample of tissue is removed with a bronchoscope for examination under a microscope.