Doctor examining lung X-rays

With advanced tools, the Cancer Institute at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center diagnoses and treats the full range of thoracic cancers, including lung cancer. We often partner with specialists at UM St. Joseph Medical Group – Pulmonary Care and Sleep Medicine to provide comprehensive care for lung cancer patients.

Our experienced thoracic surgeon, Dr. Christine Lau, collaborates with our medical and radiation oncologists to determine the best care plan for those needing surgery.

About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S. It usually starts in the cells that line the lung’s air passages, but it can develop anywhere in the chest. It can spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body. (Cancer from other organs also can spread to the lungs.)

Lung Cancer Types

There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • Small cell lung cancer (grows and spreads quickly and is usually treated with chemotherapy)
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (more common than small cell lung cancer but grows more slowly)

Lung Cancer Causes

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Other possible causes are:

  • Exposure to radon (second-leading cause of lung cancer)
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals (e.g., asbestos, uranium, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel and some petroleum products)

A personal or family history of lung cancer is another possible risk factor.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

  • Coughing that worsens or doesn’t go away
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fatigue
  • Unexpected weight loss

Diagnosing Lung and Other Thoracic Cancers

Initial evaluation includes not only a tissue diagnosis but also a thorough staging of thoracic cancers. Staging is crucial when determining the most effective treatment for patients with a thoracic malignancy such as lung cancer.

Your doctor will do a review of your medical history that involves asking about your symptoms, family health history, smoking history, and exposure to potentially harmful environmental and occupational substances.

Testing may include:

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)
  • Endoscopic Ultrasonography (EUS)
  • Low-dose CT scan
  • Mediastinoscopy  
  • MRI
  • Needle biopsy
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Thoracoscopy/Laparoscopy


Treatment of lung and other thoracic cancers varies by patient.

Treatment will depend on the type of cancer you have and how far it has spread. For instance, non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments. Small cell lung cancer is usually treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

We will work closely with you, your doctor and other specialists to determine the course of treatment that is best for your needs.