As the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women, lung cancer often takes many years to develop and is difficult to detect at an early stage when it has a greater potential for cure. More Americans die each year from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined.
The lungs are two sponge-like organs found in the chest, which bring air in and out of the body. The lungs take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide gas. The lining around the lungs, called the pleura, helps to protect the lungs and allows them to move during breathing. The windpipe (trachea) brings air down into the lungs. It divides into tubes called bronchi, which divide into smaller branches called bronchioles. At the end of these small branches are tiny sacs known as alveoli.
Most lung cancers start in the lining of the bronchi, but they also can begin in other areas such as the trachea, bronchioles or alveoli. As the lung cancer grows, cancerous cells can break away and spread to other parts of the body in a process called metastasis. Lung cancer is a life-threatening disease because it often spreads in this way before it is detected.
However, up to 80 percent of lung cancers are curable if caught early, and researchers like ours are working on new tests to make this possible. We also offer screenings for longtime smokers and continue to improve treatment for the disease, including precisely targeted radiation, minimally invasive procedures, and therapies that target specific tumor characteristics.
Lung Cancer Care
We welcome the chance to help you with an initial diagnosis or provide a second opinion. Our program features:
- Experienced Team: The best lung care comes from highly experienced and skilled specialists working together, with a full range of services, tools and therapies. Our lung cancer team meets weekly to discuss new cases and develop individualized treatment plans, based on sophisticated treatments, the latest technology and your preferences. Team members include:
- Interventional pulmonologists
- Lung pathologists
- Medical oncologists
- Radiation oncologists
- Thoracic surgeons
- Top Technology and Procedures: We offer the latest tools and techniques, including:
- Low-dose computed tomography (CT) screening
- Advanced diagnostic tools like electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (superDimension), endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and endoscopic esophageal ultrasound
- Precisely targeted CyberKnife radiation
- Minimally invasive surgery
- Interventional pulmonology
- Genetic analysis of tumors and targeted therapy
- Research and Clinical Studies: Our doctors are involved with the latest research and offer clinical trials to appropriate patients across our network. One of our studies substitutes CyberKnife radiation for the surgical treatment of the main type of lung cancer.
- Patient Focus: We provide a range of support, including physical therapists, nutritionists, and a nurse navigator to help guide you through treatment. Whenever possible, we provide care as close as possible to your home or office.
Two main types of lung cancer exist, named for how the cells appear under a microscope: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). A third type, lung carcinoid tumors, is much rarer. Treatment options depend in part on which kind you have.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
About 80 percent of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer, which usually grows and spreads to other parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer. The main subtypes of NSCLC are:
- Adenocarcinoma develops in epithelial tissue cells, often in an outer area of the lung.
- Squamous Cell (Epidermoid) Carcinoma is usually found in the center of the lung next to an air tube (bronchus).
- Large Cell (Undifferentiated) Carcinoma can occur in any part of the lung and tends to grow and spread the fastest.
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
Small cell lung cancer represents about 10 to 15 percent of lung cancer cases and is fast-growing, typically found in both lungs and usually symptom-less until it reaches later stages. It is almost always associated with smoking and often spreads before it’s found. The two sub-types of SCLC are:
- Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
- Combined small cell carcinoma (mixed small cell/non-small cell carcinoma)
Mixed Small Cell/ Large Cell Cancer
This type of lung cancer occurs when the cancer has features of both small and non-small cell lung cancer.
Lung Carcinoid Tumors
In addition to the two major types of lung cancer, there are other lung tumors. Lung carcinoid tumors are a third type of lung cancer, representing fewer than 5 percent of cases. Most of the tumors do not spread quickly and can be treated with surgery.
Metastasized Cancer in the Lungs
Cancer can spread (metastasize) to the lungs from other parts of the body, through the bloodstream, or lymphatic system. Even though the cancer is now found in the lungs, it’s still classified and treated based on where it started.