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Lung Cancer

Mission Cancer brings together a multidisciplinary team of specialists who provide comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management of primary and metastatic lung cancer. That means our lung cancer patients are able to visit with a number of our specialists in one location, who provide comprehensive and convenient care.

Our team of specialists include:

  • Fellowship-trained thoracic surgeons
  • Medical oncologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Diagnostic radiologists
  • Pathologists
  • Genetic counselors
  • Palliative Care
  • Nurse Navigators

According to the American Lung Association, smoking causes most lung cancers, but nonsmokers may also develop lung cancer. Even with the proper precautions, cancer can still affect anyone. If you see or feel something unusual – even if you suspect it might be harmless – visit your doctor for an evaluation.

What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the lung. They may invade nearby tissue and form tumors. It can start anywhere in the lungs and any part of the respiratory system, and can spread, or metastasize, to lymph nodes in other parts of the body.

While there are many different types of lung cancer, there are two major sub groups, which include small cell lung cancers (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancers (NCLSC), and they each require different treatment strategies.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Risk factors for lung cancer can include:

  • Cigarette smoking - (Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking)
  • Secondhand smoke - (Even for a nonsmoker, exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk of developing lung cancer)
  • Exposure to chemicals and carcinogens such as arsenic, asbestos or radon
  • Previous radiation therapy to the lungs
  • Family or personal history of lung cancer

A study conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) showed that screening people at high risk for lung cancer with LDCT scans reduced lung cancer deaths by 20 percent. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends yearly lung cancer screenings for people between 55 and 80 who have a history of heavy smoking and still smoke or have quit within the last 15 years.

Those at increased risk for specific diseases should speak with their healthcare provider about personalized screening schedules.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Lung cancer typically does not show symptoms until the late stages of the disease. Additionally, the symptoms are general, and many people do not suspect lung cancer if they are experiencing them.

Because of this, it is crucial to discuss your risk factors with your doctor and receive regular screenings if it is determined you are at risk.

Symptoms that occur may include:

  • Coughing
  • Prolonged hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Having blood in any mucus that you cough up

Lung Cancer Screening

With the introduction of low-dose CT (LDCT) lung screening, patients who are at risk for lung cancer have a better chance at early detection. The Low Dose Lung Screening Program at Mission Cancer is a fast, low-dose CT scan of the lungs. During the scan, a small amount of radiation is used to create images of your lung to look for cancer. This screening method uses only a quarter of the radiation a standard CT uses. It is recommended yearly for high-risk patients as it has been shown to identify lung cancer earlier when it is most treatable.

A study conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) showed that screening people at high risk for lung cancer with LDCT scans reduced lung cancer deaths by 20 percent.

Click here to learn about Mission’s Low Dose Lung Screening Program.

Cancer Diagnosis

You will first meet your physician-led oncology team, who will conduct a physical, and your symptoms, medical history and family history will all be reviewed to determine if additional tests are needed. Lung cancer is typically first found on a chest X-ray or CT scan.

If it is determined that you have lung cancer, a staging work-up will then be completed in order to best direct treatment. You may receive additional tests, including:

  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • Bone scan
  • Endobronchial ultrasound
  • Mediastinoscopy

Lung Cancer Treatment

Lung cancer treatment continues to evolve more rapidly than ever, emphasizing the need for a commitment to a disease-focused approach. That’s why we deliver a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, bringing together surgical, medical and radiation oncologists with specialized expertise in treating lung cancer, all in one location. Whether you need single, dual or a combination of all three therapies, you can be confident that you are receiving the highest level of care.

Lung Surgery

Lung surgery may be recommended to remove the cancer, affected lobe of the lung or, in some cases, the affected lung. Mission partners with some of the most skilled thoracic surgeons in the region for the surgical management of lung cancer. You have access to a team of board-certified, fellowship-trained thoracic surgeons who have special expertise in the surgical management of lung cancer.

We use the most advanced techniques for the surgical treatment of lung cancer, including minimally invasive video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). This is an approach in which specialized instruments and a camera aids to accomplish resection through smaller incisions.

Types of resection include:

  • Wedge resection: This is a procedure in which the surgeon removes a small, wedge-shaped piece of the lung that contains the cancer, as well as a margin of healthy tissue around the cancer.
  • Lobectomy: This is the gold standard for the cure to lung cancer. In this procedure, the surgeon removes the entire lobe of the lung that contains the cancer. Your lungs are able to function with the lobes that remain.
  • Pneumonectomy: This is a procedure in which the surgeon removes the entire lung that contains the lung cancer. It is typically used in rare cases.
  • Sleeve resection: This is a lung-sparing technique that preserves lung function while achieving good results. During the surgery, the surgeon removes the cancerous part of the bronchus (part of the windpipe that branches off into each side of the lungs) and reconnects the healthy ends.

Our surgeons have been recognized by The Society of Thoracic Surgeons for our excellent patient outcomes in lobectomies for the treatment of lung cancer.

Find a thoracic surgeon

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a treatment that uses X-rays to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. At Mission, our therapists specialize by tumor type. They use the latest technologies and treatments, including Focused Ultrasound, and coordinate care with your surgeon, medical oncologist, navigator and primary care physician to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Learn more about radiation oncology


Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, and may be used in combination with radiation therapy and surgery. At Mission, our medical oncologists are experts in the tumor-specific disease processes, treatments and research options.

Learn more about medical oncology

Find a medical oncologist

Lung Cancer Support and Survivorship

We understand a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. That’s why we provide access to a dedicated nurse navigator, who guides you through each step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment to survivorship. Our Sarah Cannon thoracic nurse navigators have specialized training in lung cancer, and will initiate and facilitate timely communication with each member of your care team, provide education, resources and emotional support, and provide access to appropriate support groups and community resources.

Click here to browse our support services


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