Lung Cancer

Providing early screening and the best treatment options for you

Lung cancer develops in tissues of the lungs. This happens most often in the cells that line the air passages.

Treatments for lung cancer may include surgery, radiation and different types of chemotherapy. The best treatment depends on the specific type of lung cancer, the cancer stage and the patient’s general medical condition.

Understanding Lung Cancer

Cells lining the airways of your lungs constantly grow and divide. Throughout your lifetime, they replace cells that are lost. This is a naturally regulated process where cell growth matches cell loss. This maintains the right number of living cells in your lungs. Cancer develops when cells grow without proper regulation and too many cells build up to form a mass or tumor.

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, deciding what type of treatment is best can be difficult. We are here to help.

The most common risk factor for lung cancer is cigarette smoking. Other lung cancer risk factors include secondhand smoke and exposure to radon and asbestos. The association between these other risk factors and lung cancer are much weaker than smoking.

Not everyone who develops lung cancer has smoked. In fact, about 1 in 10 lung cancer patients have no smoking history. Some patients with lung cancer do not have any particular risk factor that can be identified.

Many patients with lung cancer do not have any symptoms. Others may have symptoms that are non-specific and develop slowly. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Symptoms experienced less frequently that may be caused by lung cancer include:

  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Lung cancer often does not cause any symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. This can make it more difficult to treat.

For this reason, lung cancer screening is recommended for individuals who are at an increased risk. Screening is recommended for individuals between the ages of 55 and 74 who are one of the following:

  • Currently smoking
  • Quit smoking within the last 15 years and have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history (one pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years etc.).

We know that lung cancer screening saves lives, but the decision for screening is an individual’s choice. If you would like to discuss lung cancer screening, schedule an appointment to discuss your options.

The best treatment for an individual patient depends on two important factors:

  • your general medical condition
  • the cancer stage

The general medical conditions can be assessed by reviewing other medical diagnoses such as high blood pressure and diabetes as well as level of daily activity. The cancer stage depends on the size of the tumor and any structures that the tumor may involve. The cancer stage also depends on evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes inside the chest or to other parts of the body.

Treatment for Early-Stage Lung Cancer

Treatment for the earliest stages of cancer often includes surgery or focused radiation. Surgery for smaller tumors can often be performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques. These techniques have been perfected in recent years and use smaller incisions. There is less discomfort after the procedure and a faster recovery. The long-term cancer-related outcomes are the same as with a traditional operation.

Radiation for early stage tumors is guided by imaging. It is able to focus the greatest dose of radiation on the tumor. This increases its effectiveness and reduces the amount of injury to surrounding healthy tissues.

Treatment for Intermediate-Stage Lung Cancer

Intermediate stage lung cancers are often treated using a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Before any treatment is provided, patients often meet with several members of the treatment team. The team will outline the overall treatment plan including treatments and the sequence of treatment.

Treatment for Advanced-Stage Lung Cancer

More advanced lung cancers are treated primarily with three categories of chemotherapy. These treatment options have progressed significantly in recent years. The type of treatment that is best for an individual needs to be discussed with their oncologist.

  • Traditional chemotherapies are medications, often provided by infusions into your blood stream that attack fast-growing cells, a characteristic of cancers.
  • More recently, we have recognized the growth of some lung cancers are driven by certain mutated growth factor receptors. Specific drugs have been developed that target these abnormal growth factor receptors. Several of these targeted agents can be taken as a pill. The availability of a targeted agent as a treatment option can only be determined by performing a genetic analysis of an individual’s tumor.
  • The third category of chemotherapy is immunotherapy. This does not attack the cancer directly. Instead, this enhances the patient’s own immune system to more effectively attack the cancer cells.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials have led to significant advancements for several aspects in the treatment of lung cancer in recent years. This includes advancements in the following:

  • minimally invasive surgery options
  • focused radiation known as stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT)
  • targeted agents and immunotherapy

We continue to look for better treatment options that will improve care for patients with lung cancer. At IU Health, our unique partnership with the IU School of Medicine gives as access to a broad range of clinical trials. Please ask us about your potential eligibility to participate in a clinical trial.

How is lung cancer treated?

The best treatment for an individual patient depends on two important factors:

  • your general medical condition
  • the cancer stage

The general medical conditions can be assessed by reviewing other medical diagnoses such as high blood pressure and diabetes as well as level of daily activity. The cancer stage depends on the size of the tumor and any structures that the tumor may involve. The cancer stage also depends on evidence the tumor has spread to lymph nodes inside the chest or to other parts of the body.

Treatment for Early-Stage Lung Cancer

Treatment for the earliest stages of cancer often includes surgery or focused radiation. Surgery for smaller tumors can often be performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques. These techniques have been perfected in recent years and use smaller incisions. There is less discomfort after the procedure and a faster recovery. The long-term cancer-related outcomes are the same as with a traditional operation.

Radiation for early stage tumors is guided by imaging. It is able to focus the greatest dose of radiation on the tumor. This increases its effectiveness and reduces the amount of injury to surrounding healthy tissues.

Treatment for Intermediate-Stage Lung Cancer

Intermediate stage lung cancers are often treated using a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Before any treatment is provided, patients often meet with several members of the treatment team. The team will outline the overall treatment plan including treatments and the sequence of treatment.

Treatment for Advanced-Stage Lung Cancer

More advanced lung cancers are treated primarily with three categories of chemotherapy. These treatment options have progressed significantly in recent years. The type of treatment that is best for an individual needs to be discussed with their oncologist.

  • Traditional chemotherapies are medications, often provided by infusions into your blood stream that attack fast-growing cells, a characteristic of cancers.
  • More recently, we have recognized the growth of some lung cancers are driven by certain mutated growth factor receptors. Specific drugs have been developed that target these abnormal growth factor receptors. Several of these targeted agents can be taken as a pill. The availability of a targeted agent as a treatment option can only be determined by performing a genetic analysis of an individual’s tumor.
  • The third category of chemotherapy is immunotherapy. This does not attack the cancer directly. Instead, this enhances the patient’s own immune system to more effectively attack the cancer cells.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials have led to significant advancements for several aspects in the treatment of lung cancer in recent years. This includes advancements in the following:

  • minimally invasive surgery options
  • focused radiation known as stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT)
  • targeted agents and immunotherapy

We continue to look for better treatment options that will improve care for patients with lung cancer. At IU Health, our unique partnership with the IU School of Medicine gives as access to a broad range of clinical trials. Please ask us about your potential eligibility to participate in a clinical trial.

What can I expect for care at IU Health for lung cancer treatment?

You will receive care in a comfortable, healing environment at IU Health Cancer Centers. Our social services and support groups will help you cope with the challenges of lung cancer. Physicians at IU Health use a team approach to your care. You’ll have providers from many specialties on your team providing care for you. Your team will include:

  • Pulmonologists (respiratory and lung doctors)
  • Oncologists (cancer doctors)
  • Surgeons
  • Support staff

Together, we will to provide care designed for your needs. We make it our goal to treat your cancer successfully while enabling you to enjoy your normal activities as much as possible.

Your physicians dedicate themselves to the prevention and early detection of lung cancer. IU Health specialists offer services, such as smoking cessation support, that can help you begin to reduce your risk for cancer. At-risk patients can also receive lung cancer screenings to monitor your lung health. Early detection greatly improves your treatment options.

Why IU Health

What can I expect for care at IU Health for lung cancer treatment?

You will receive care in a comfortable, healing environment at IU Health Cancer Centers. Our social services and support groups will help you cope with the challenges of lung cancer. Physicians at IU Health use a team approach to your care. You’ll have providers from many specialties on your team providing care for you. Your team will include:

  • Pulmonologists (respiratory and lung doctors)
  • Oncologists (cancer doctors)
  • Surgeons
  • Support staff

Together, we will to provide care designed for your needs. We make it our goal to treat your cancer successfully while enabling you to enjoy your normal activities as much as possible.

Your physicians dedicate themselves to the prevention and early detection of lung cancer. IU Health specialists offer services, such as smoking cessation support, that can help you begin to reduce your risk for cancer. At-risk patients can also receive lung cancer screenings to monitor your lung health. Early detection greatly improves your treatment options.

Patient Stories for Lung Cancer

American Cancer Society

This website features a thorough explanation of all aspects of lung cancer, from screenings to diagnosis to treatment.

Free to Breathe

This advocacy organization supports research and offers information about lung cancer. It also shows you how you can take action to help fight lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Alliance

The Lung Cancer Alliance provides support, advocacy and information about lung cancer and resources to help people with cancer and their families.

National Cancer Institute

This U.S. government website includes a wealth of information about lung cancer, treatment and research into better treatments, clinical trials and many other topics.

Resources

American Cancer Society

This website features a thorough explanation of all aspects of lung cancer, from screenings to diagnosis to treatment.

Free to Breathe

This advocacy organization supports research and offers information about lung cancer. It also shows you how you can take action to help fight lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Alliance

The Lung Cancer Alliance provides support, advocacy and information about lung cancer and resources to help people with cancer and their families.

National Cancer Institute

This U.S. government website includes a wealth of information about lung cancer, treatment and research into better treatments, clinical trials and many other topics.