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Lung cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers, and is highly treatable. It can be treated through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This cancer is strongly linked to a history of smoking, so you should seek lung cancer screening to determine your risk of developing this disease.

Proactive lung cancer care

Lung cancer can be preventable and treatable. We want to show you how.

Smoking may cause most lung cancers, but even with precautions, cancer can still affect anyone. At Mission Health hospitals, we take a caring approach that encourages regular screenings. We follow those with extensive, personalized treatments, should you need them.

Lung cancer symptoms

Lung cancer typically does not show symptoms until the later stages. Additionally, the symptoms are general, and not necessarily cancer-specific. These can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Coughing up bloody mucus
  • Prolonged hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

Services our lung cancer programs offer

Effective treatment for lung cancer begins with a proper diagnosis. Our oncologists build a supportive relationship with you that begins with screenings, continuing through treatment and recovery.

Risk factors for lung cancer

Lung cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the lung, potentially invading nearby tissues and forming tumors. Lung cancer has the ability to start anywhere in the lungs and 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 — small cell lung cancers (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancers (NCLSC). Each sub-group requires different treatment strategies. As many symptoms of these cancers do not appear to be life-threatening, it is critical to discuss your personal risk factors with one of our knowledgeable doctors. Risk factors for lung cancer can include:

  • Chemical exposure — If you work in a profession, such as construction, where it is more common to be around older structures, you possess a worrisome risk of being exposed to a variety of chemicals and carcinogens, including arsenic, asbestos and radon.
  • Cigarette smoking — Smoking is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, and the American Cancer Society reports that about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are the result of smoking.
  • Family or personal history — If you or a family member has had lung cancer in the past, there is a chance it can reappear, or make you more susceptible.
  • Secondhand smoke — Even for nonsmokers, exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risk of developing lung cancer.
  • Previous radiation therapy — If you have previously received radiation to your lungs, you are at risk for developing cancerous cells again.

Lung cancer screening

In order to properly screen for lung cancer, our diagnostic specialists will typically use computerized tomography (CT) scans, which create a cross-sectional image of your body's internal structures through a combination of X-rays. With the introduction of low-dose CT (LDCT) lung screening, we are able to give you a better chance at early detection, particularly if you are at a higher risk for lung cancer. The Low Dose Lung Screening Program at Mission Cancer features fast, low-dose CT scans 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, and is recommended yearly if you are high-risk, 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.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends yearly lung cancer screenings if you are between 55 and 80, and have a current history of heavy smoking, or have quit within the last 15 years.

Diagnostic imaging tests

If a positive lung cancer diagnosis is confirmed, your first step in the treatment process will be meeting with your oncology team. They will conduct a physical, fully assess your symptoms and review both your medical and family history. If the results of these exams determine that further testing is needed, you may receive one or more of the following tests:

  • Bone scan
  • CT scan
  • Endobronchial ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Mediastinoscopy
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan

Lung cancer treatment

When you come to one of our hospitals for lung cancer treatment, you are treated with the utmost care and understanding from a multidisciplinary team of lung cancer specialists. With fellowship-trained thoracic surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists, diagnostic radiologists, genetic counselors and palliative care professionals coming together, we are confident that our treatment strategies are best for improving your health.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells, and may be used by itself or in combination with radiation therapy and surgery. Additionally, chemotherapy can be beneficial in killing cells that may still be in the body after surgery is employed.

Lung cancer surgery

Lung surgery may be recommended to remove tumors, the affected lobe of the lung or, in some cases, the affected lung. Our skilled thoracic surgeons use advanced techniques, including minimally invasive video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). This approach uses specialized instruments and a camera to accomplish a resection through smaller incisions, which can provide you with less pain, less scarring, a faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay.

Types of resection include:

  • Lobectomy — This is the gold standard for lung cancer surgery. In this procedure, your surgeon removes the entire lobe of the lung that contains the cancer, and your lungs are able to still function with the lobes that remain.
  • Pneumonectomy — In this procedure, your surgeon removes the entire lung that contains the cancer. This is typically only employed in rare cases.
  • Sleeve resection — This is a lung-sparing technique that preserves lung function, while achieving a positive outcome. During the surgery, we remove the cancerous part of the bronchus, which is the part of the windpipe that branches off into each side of the lungs. Once that has been removed, we reconnect the healthy ends.
  • Wedge resection — This is a procedure in which your 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.

Radiation therapy

Our radiation therapists specialize their treatments by tumor type, using radiation treatments, such as X-rays and focused ultrasound, to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. When receiving radiation therapy, your lung cancer specialist with coordinate care with your entire team, including your surgeon, medical oncologist, navigator and primary care physician, to ensure precise and accurate treatment.

Support and survivorship

We understand a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, so we provide access to a dedicated nurse navigator, who guides you through each step of your lung cancer journey. Our thoracic nurse navigators have received specialized training, and will initiate and facilitate timely communication with each member of your care team. They also provide education, resources and emotional support, and provide access to appropriate community resources and support services.

Detect and diagnose lung cancer early

Finding lung cancer in its earliest stages is critical for producing more positive treatment outcomes. Our screening program is not typically strenuous, and can be extremely beneficial for those with higher lung cancer risks, including smokers and those with more advanced age.

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