Lung cancer – a malignant, abnormal growth of tissue in the lungs – is the second most common type of cancer affecting men and women in the United States, trailing only prostate cancer (in men) and breast cancer (in women).
While this disease is certainly treatable, it can take a while for symptoms to develop and, therefore, may not be detected until it has spread to other parts of your body. This is why it’s so important for those at high risk (see criteria below) to be diligent about receiving regular lung cancer screenings.
The majority of lung cancers – around 85% – are classified as non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). Most often developed in the outer portions of the lungs, non-small cell lung cancers typically are responsive to surgical treatment if detected early.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) affects about 15% of all lung cancer patients and gets its name from its small, monotonous-looking cells that grow centrally in the lung, near the main air tubes. These cancer cells can spread quickly to the lymph nodes or areas outside of the chest, so this type of lung cancer is often considered more dangerous than non-small cell lung cancer.
Small cell lung cancer has the highest association with cigarette smoking and can affect both active and former smokers. Surgery is not normally recommended. Instead, your doctor may prescribe a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to ensure all cancer cells are targeted.
According to the American Cancer Society, the majority of people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 years of age or older. Unfortunately, 70% of those are diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer – providing even more reason for high-risk individuals to consider an annual lung cancer screening.
Not surprisingly, tobacco use is the leading cause of lung cancer, and smoking is responsible for 85 to 90% of all lung cancer diagnoses. Second-hand smoke can also increase your risk of lung cancer by as much as 30%.
It is, however, possible to develop lung cancer even if you’ve never smoked. Adenocarcinoma, a form of non-small cell lung cancer, is the most common lung cancer found in nonsmokers and about 40% of all lung cancers are adenocarcinomas.
Exposure to certain toxic chemicals has also been known to cause lung cancer, including:
The symptoms listed below are not specific to lung cancer, but it’s important to notify your doctor as soon as you experience any, especially if they’re persistent.
Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers offer specialized Low-Dose CT (LDCT) screenings for lung cancer. Low-Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) is an effective tool in screening for lung cancer and should be done before there are any symptoms. The goal of an LDCT lung screening is to save lives. Without this screening test, lung cancer is usually not found until a person develops symptoms.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer or if lung cancer is suspected, you’re likely feeling a range of emotions, not the least of which is a fear of the unknown. At Memorial Hermann, we understand this is a difficult time. That’s why we’re committed to offering you the highest level of lung cancer diagnostics and treatment in the Greater Houston area, in an environment focused on your comfort and healing.
In addition to physical exams and detailed medical histories, advances in medical technology now allow us to pinpoint suspicious masses in or around your lungs using diagnostic scans, called computed tomography (CT). If an abnormality is detected on the CT, a biopsy will be scheduled, a tissue sample will be examined by a pathologist and a diagnosis will be determined.
Many lung cancers don’t cause noticeable symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage. And because early detection can drastically improve the chance of recovery, we strongly encourage annual lung cancer screenings for those at higher risk.
In 2014, Memorial Hermann introduced a screening process for high-risk patients who may not exhibit any symptoms. Using In 2014, Memorial Hermann introduced a screening process for high-risk patients who may not exhibit any symptoms. Using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), we provide patients with annual lung cancer screenings to scan the lungs for hidden tumors, nodules, or other signs of cancer. (LDCT), we provide patients with annual lung cancer screenings to scan the lungs for hidden tumors, nodules, or other signs of cancer.
If you’re a current or former smoker and considered at higher risk of developing lung cancer (see criteria listed below), please consider what could be a life-saving screening.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a LDCT lung screening is recommended for people who are at high risk of lung cancer. Patients who are, or may be, at high risk fit the following criteria:
Health outcomes, benefits and risks are important for your physician to consider when recommending an LDCT lung screening. Not all people who smoke may fit the criteria necessary for screening. Your health care provider or a Lung Nurse Navigator can help you determine if you fit the criteria appropriate for receiving an LDCT lung screening.
To schedule a Lung Cancer Screening, contact one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators at (833) 770-7771 or fill out the form on this page to receive more information.
After diagnosis, your doctor will determine if lung cancer is contained within your lungs or has spread to any other parts of your body. This process is called staging. While no two people – and no two cancers – are the same, staging provides a guideline for doctors to develop the best course of treatment.
The stages are as follows:
No matter your stage at diagnosis, Memorial Hermann is committed to providing you with the most advanced treatment options, tailored to your specific situation.
Those treatment options include but are not limited to:
Through Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers' Lung Cancer Multidisciplinary Program, newly-diagnosed lung cancer patients can have their care seamlessly coordinated from diagnosis through treatment. Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers aim to provide patients peace of mind knowing that a multidisciplinary team of affiliated lung cancer specialists works together to decide and recommend a treatment plan unique to them. This team aims to provide easy access to appointments and testing, and an expedited treatment plan so patients can make informed decisions about their care.
Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers are accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC). This rare distinction is given to cancer programs that uphold the highest standard of care for patients. When you choose Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers for your cancer treatment, you can rest assured you will receive the best possible care delivered by a compassionate team of caregivers in a calm, healing environment.
For more information about Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers, including how to get connected to our support services or an affiliated provider, please call (833) 770-7771 or fill out the form below to be connected to one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators.