Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

There are two major types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. The type depends on the way the cells look under a microscope. Each type grows and spreads in different ways and is treated differently.


Non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is much more common. It usually spreads to different parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma are three types of non-small cell lung cancer.


Small cell lung cancer

Small cell lung cancer, also called oat cell cancer, accounts for about 20 percent of all lung cancer. This type grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.


Researchers have discovered several things that can cause lung cancer, including:

  • Cigarettes — stopping smoking greatly reduces a person's risk for developing lung cancer
  • Cigars and pipes
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Radon
  • Asbestos
  • Pollution
  • Lung diseases — Certain lung diseases, such as tuberculosis, increase a person's chance of developing lung cancer 


Common signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • A cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time
  • Constant chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Repeated problems with pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Swelling of the neck and face
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Fatigue

Multidisciplinary Care

The Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute  offers a multidisciplinary approach to care for patients diagnosed with lung cancer. All care team specialists meet together with the patient and family rather than at separate times. The disciplines involved include surgeons, medical oncologists, pulmonologists and radiation oncologists. The setting is designed to provide care using the multidisciplinary approach.

Screening and Diagnosis

Lung cancer diagnosis involves the use of several screening tools. They include:


  • Bronchoscopy: A thin, lighted tube inserted into the mouth or nose and down through the windpipe to look into the breathing passages to collect cells or small samples of tissue.
  • Needle Aspiration: A needle inserted through the chest into the tumor to remove a sample of tissue.
  • Thoracentesis: A sample of the fluid that surrounds the lungs is removed via a tube to check for cancer cells
  • Thoracotomy: A surgical procedure to open the chest to diagnose lung cancer.
  • CT scan (computed tomography): A computer that creates a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): An imaging process that uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to get detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
  • Radionuclide scanning: A mildly radioactive substance is swallowed, and then a scanner measures and records the level of radioactivity in certain organs to reveal abnormal areas. One type is a bone scan.


Treatment depends on a number of factors, including the type of lung cancer (non-small or small cell lung cancer); the size, location and extent of the tumor; and the general health of the patient. Many different treatments and combinations of treatments may be used to control lung cancer, and/or to improve quality of life by reducing symptoms.



Surgery is used to remove the cancer. The type of surgery a doctor performs depends on the location of the tumor in the lung. The surgical procedures are:


  • Resection (segmental or wedge) to remove only a small part of the lung
  • Lobectomy to remove an entire lobe of the lung
  • Pneumonectomy to remove an entire lung


Some tumors are inoperable because of the size or location, and some patients cannot have surgery for other medical reasons.


Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing. The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. The medical oncology/hematology division directs the chemotherapy program at LifeBridge Health.


Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. The Department of Radiation Oncology provides the most advanced radiotherapy for many cancers.


Photodynamic therapy

PDT is a form of laser therapy involving the use of a chemical that is injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body. The chemical rapidly leaves normal cells but remains in cancer cells for a longer time. A laser light aimed at the cancer activates the chemical, which then kills the cancer cells that have absorbed it.