Lung cancer forms in the tissue of the lungs and is categorized as either small cell, or non-small cell. About 13 percent of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers, a type, which tends to spread quickly; however, most lung cancers (about 87 percent) are non-small cell lung cancers. This type spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer.
Smoking accounts for 90 percent of lung cancer cases. Other risk factors include:
- Radon: Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell, or taste. It forms in soil and rocks. People who work in mines may be exposed to radon. In some parts of the country, radon is found in houses
- Asbestos and other substances: Exposure to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, soot, tar and other substances can also cause lung cancer. The risk is highest for those with years of exposure like those who have worked for years in the construction and chemical industries
- Air pollution: Air pollution may slightly increase the risk of lung cancer
- Family history of lung cancer: People with a father, mother or sibling who had lung cancer may be at slightly increased risk of the disease, even if they don't smoke
- Personal history of lung cancer: People who have had lung cancer are at increased risk of developing a second lung tumor
- Age over 65: Most people are older than 65 when diagnosed with lung cancer
Lung cancers are thought to develop over many years. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and its symptoms often appear when the cancer is in a more advanced stage. Low-Dose CT lung screening can detect lung cancer earlier and with lower exposure to radiation. Early lung cancer often does not cause symptoms. But as the cancer grows, common symptoms may include:
- A cough that gets worse or does not go away
- Breathing trouble, such as shortness of breath
- Constant chest pain
- Coughing up blood
- A hoarse voice
- Frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia
- Feeling very tired all the time
- Weight loss with no known cause
Most often these symptoms are not due to cancer. Other health problems can cause some of these symptoms. Anyone with such symptoms should see a doctor to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
In addition to a physical exam, a variety of diagnostic tests may be utilized to diagnose lung cancer including:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Sputum cytology – which allows pathologists to examine fluid (sputum) coughed up from lungs
- Thoracentesis – physicians remove fluid from the chest with a needle
- Bronchoscopy – a tube (bronchoscope) is inserted through the nose or mouth, under anesthesia, to allow the physician to gather cell samples
- Fine needle aspiration – physicians use a thin needle to remove tissue or fluid from the lung or lymph nodes
- Thoracoscopy – surgical procedure to obtain samples for biopsy
- Throacotomy – more invasive surgical procedure to remove tissue or lymph nodes
- Mediastinoscopy – surgical incision above the breastbone to insert a tube and obtain samples of tissue
Up to 80 percent of lung cancers can be cured if detected early enough. At HSHS St. Vincent Hospital, our providers use ALOKA bronchoscopy to produce state of the art ultrasound image quality to more clearly evaluate chest abnormalities. Bronchoscopy provides real-time images, decreasing the complication risks of needle biopsies that can occur for certain patients.
With our superDimension™ image guidance system, small lung abnormalities that show up on X-rays and CT-scans are able to be further examined with a bronchoscopy. The system provides physicians the ability to biopsy suspicious lesions not otherwise reachable through standard bronchoscopy. It also provides another option for patients who are not candidates for needle biopsy or open surgery.
With the superDimension, positive diagnosis can be rendered at an earlier stage of disease when more treatment options are available.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. so it is crucial that patients get the best treatment as soon as possible. At St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center, a team of health care professionals – including thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses and other skilled professionals – pool their experience and expertise to deliver a tailor-made plan for each lung cancer patient. Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type of lung cancer and whether it has spread. People with lung cancer may have:
Lung cancer treatments may include:
HSHS St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute is a top national research center, with more than 30 years of experience in conducting clinical trials. More than 700 different clinical trials have been provided to more than 2,800 patients. The ability to conduct research studies opens up new avenues of hope, as they provide our patients with more treatment options.
Research compares the best-known treatment with new treatments, which have a possibility of improving current outcomes. Standard treatments used today are a result of past clinical trials.
In cancer research, clinical trials are designed to answer questions about new ways to:
- Treat cancer
- Find and diagnose cancer
- Prevent cancer
- Manage symptoms of cancer and/or its treatment
Whether or not to take part in a clinical trial is always the patient’s decision. All treatment options should be considered.
One important benefit of participating in a clinical trial is the possibility of being part of a breakthrough discovery in the treatment of cancer. Clinical trials help people who may get cancer in the future. But whether or not to take part in a clinical trial is always the patient's decision. All treatment options should be considered.
Through the HSHS St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute, patients of the St. Vincent Cancer Collaborative have access to hundreds of clinical trials at any given time. Many of these trials are also available at our affiliated locations in the Regional Cancer Collaborative.
To find out more about clinical trials, call the St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute at (920) 433-8889.
Lung Cancer Care Team
Throughout your journey to wellness, you will be meeting with specialists in many different fields working together to provide you with the very best care possible. Coordination of your care occurs between members of this treatment team both individually, or as a group in meetings we call “Tumor Board”. Each week, St. Vincent Regional Cancer Center hosts meetings to allow our team to collaboratively develop individualized treatment plans to meet the precious needs of our patients. Surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors, radiologists, pathologists, clinical research professionals, nursing and other supportive staff all attend these tumor board meetings. All of these experts are sitting together, reviewing your history, pathology, and imaging studies and discussing the most appropriate treatment course. Between these meetings, this multidisciplinary team continues to work together one on one as needed, to meet the individual needs of their patients, according to a timeframe suitable to you.
You can be assured this team of skilled experts is working closely together to develop the best treatment plan possible to treat your cancer and to give you all treatment options available.