Lung and Thoracic Cancer
Initial evaluation includes not only a tissue diagnosis but thorough staging of thoracic cancers. Staging is crucial when determining the most effective treatment for patients with a thoracic malignancy. This may include:
- Chest X-ray/Lung CAD
- Spiral/Helical low dose CT
- Percutaneous needle biopsy
- Endobronchial Ultrasonography (EBUS)
- Endoscopic Ultrasonography (EUS)
UM St. Joseph Medical Center's Cancer Institute offers advanced diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer with advanced tools.
Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lung divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor does not invade or spread. Lung cancers develop anywhere in the contents of the chest, particularly in the lung itself, its bronchi, or alveoli. Tumors may take years to develop.
Lung cancers that start in the lungs are divided into two general types:
- Non-small cell lung cancer – generally grows and spreads slowly. This accounts for about 80% of the lung cancers diagnosed each year in the United States. The three subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma
- Small cell lung cancer – generally grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Other names for this disease include oat cell carcinoma and small cell undifferentiated carcinoma.
Lung cancer is caused by exposure to cancer-causing substances. Most cases are associated with tobacco use. Causative agents include:
- First- or second-hand cigarette smoke
- Pipe or cigar smoking
- Radon – an invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas in soil and rocks
- Asbestos – a group of minerals that occur naturally as fibers and are used in certain industries
- Air pollutants
Complications of lung cancer occur when the tumor presses against other structures. If the tumor pushes against the windpipe it can block the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide. If it compresses the superior vena cava, a major vein connecting to the heart, fluid will back up resulting in swelling in the face, neck, and arms. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and headache. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
The doctor will also ask about the following:
- Smoking history
- Exposure to environmental and occupational substances
- Family history of cancer
For more information or to make an appointment, call 1-800-441-7562 or 410-427-5585.