We can detect lung cancer in several ways: by screening for it, by a patient reports symptoms, or by finding it while scanning for other conditions. If you have a diagnosis of lung cancer or have a mass suspected to be a cancer you can expect to follow most of these steps.
- Imaging: You will have a PET, CT and/or MRI study which shows the cancerous areas of the lungs.
- Biopsy: Whether you have a bronchoscopic biopsy, CT guided needle biopsy or a surgical biopsy, our team will both diagnose and stage your cancer to determine the optimal treatment. A pathologist looks at your biopsy specimen under the microscope and notifies your doctor of the results.
- Information gathering: A Tumor Board is a team made up of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiologists, pathologists and nutrition specialists. The Tumor Board will gather and review all imaging studies, physician notes, biopsy and test results. Physicians review your images to gather information about the cancer. We discuss as a team how best to individualize your care and treatment planning.
- Treatment plan: Treatment plans vary depending on your diagnosis and the stage of your cancer. Once the team discusses your case, during our weekly meetings, you will meet with members of your team to put together the best treatment plan. This may include meetings with a thoracic surgeon, a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist or all three. You will have the chance to ask questions and evaluate your treatment options.
- Patients with “localized” cancer are often treated by a team of physicians with surgery or radiation, and sometimes chemotherapy.
- Patients with suspected “metastatic” lung cancer - cancer that has spread beyond the lungs - are often offered treatment options that may include targeted therapies, immunotherapies and chemotherapy and in some cases can include surgery or radiation therapy.
- Discussion of clinical trials: Whether the cancer is localized or metastatic, discussion of available clinical trials is an important step in treatment. Clinical trials may offer new therapies not yet widely available depending on your condition. A member of your care team will explain any open clinical trials that you are eligible to enroll in.
- Surgery and recovery: If the team has decided surgery is the best treatment for you, your surgeon and the surgical nurse will give you information about your surgery appointment, what to expect at the hospital and what your recovery will be like.
- Systemic therapy (immunotherapy, chemotherapy, targeted treatment) and/or radiation therapy begins: When chemotherapy is part of your treatment plan, you will have appointments scheduled for chemotherapy after you meet with the medical oncologist.
- Follow-up: Once your initial treatment is complete, your care team will monitor your progress. This may include periodic imaging, blood tests or exams to make sure the cancer has not come back or catch it early if it does come back. How often you are seen depends on your individual situation.
Palliative care is also available.
We strive to ensure that patients experiencing a life-threatening illness are comfortable and maintain the best possible quality of life during their care. Palliative care addresses not only physical needs but also the spiritual and emotional well-being of patients and families.