Department of Radiology
Lung cancer forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. It starts from a single cell, but usually includes millions of cells by the time it can be seen by an X-ray. Cancer cells lose their previous function in the body. Instead they grow faster than regular cells. They cause the body to weaken and prevent organs from working. The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer, which spreads quickly, and non-small cell lung cancer, which is more common and spreads slowly. More than 225,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. Treatment depends on the type and stage of lung cancer and may include one or more treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy.
When it comes to lung cancer, the earlier the detection, the better the prognosis. Studies have shown that patients at increased risk who were screened with Computed Tomography (CT) rather than a chest X-ray, had 20 percent fewer deaths from lung cancer. As a result of those findings, a task force formed by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) announced recommendations that former smokers between the ages of 55 and 79 should get an annual low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer.
Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital screens patients between the ages of 55 and 80 who have at least a 30 pack year history of smoking, and who have not been ex-smokers for greater than 15 years. We offer lung cancer screening using low-dose CT to individuals who meet these high-risk criteria (patients who do not meet these risk criteria may still be eligible for a scan under a self-pay option). The screening CT scan is a very quick and painless procedure. It usually takes 15 minutes or less to complete and requires no needle stick or special preparation.
If you are a current or former long-term smoker over the age of 55, speak to your primary care physician or healthcare provider to determine if lung cancer screening using CT may be right for you (or see our Lung Cancer Screening FAQs).
There are two major types of lung cancer:
Smoking tobacco is the most significant risk for developing this type of cancer, typically affecting people older than 45. Factors that contribute to an increased risk for developing lung cancer include:
Lung cancer may not cause any symptoms and may be found on a routine chest X-ray or low-dose chest CT scan. Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:
Diagnosis of lung cancer often includes a number of different tests and procedures, many conducted by your thoracic surgeon:
The Department of Radiology at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital has created a unique program that offers eligible patients CT scans to screen for lung cancer. Eligible are patients between the ages of 55 and 79 who smoked one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years.
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the lungs or to other parts of the body is called staging. The stage is determined from the results of physical exams, imaging tests and biopsies that have been done.
Depending on its type and stage, lung cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy radiation therapy, local ablation including laser therapy or a combination of treatments. Treatment options include:
Surgery is usually the best option for treating early-stage lung cancer and may be used to remove a portion of the lung or the entire lung. Our thoracic surgeons have pioneered the use of minimally invasive video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), and continue to develop innovative approaches to achieving the best outcomes for lung cancer patients.
Types of Surgery
Minimally Invasive Surgery
Using minimally invasive surgery techniques over traditional surgeries offers patients many benefits: improved accuracy and visualization, minimized trauma to tissue, less bleeding, decreased pain, less scarring and a shortened recovery.
Non-Surgical Cancer Treatments
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. Radiation is often used in conjunction with chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor. Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Department of Radiology uses the most advanced equipment and techniques to deliver radiation to cancerous areas, while avoiding exposure to normal tissues. More importantly, radiation experts work closely with your surgeon to create a specialized treatment plan just for you.
To view a printable Lung Cancer Screening Form/Risk Assessment Questionnaire, click here. We encourage patients to print and complete this form in advance and bring it with them on the day of their appointment to help save time.
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