According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the U.S. Smoking, high levels of pollution, radiation and asbestos exposure can all increase your risk of getting lung cancer.
El Camino Health’s lung cancer specialists take an aggressive approach to treating cancer, using the combined expertise of surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists to develop a personalized treatment plan for you.
Our entire cancer team will give you and your loved ones plenty of support and encouragement as you confront the challenges of cancer.
We offer you hope for a cure, exceeding national benchmarks in lung cancer five-year survival rates. Our relentless pursuit of options and answers and our personalized approach help us achieve higher cure rates for early-stage cancers, allowing us to prolong life while maintaining quality of life for advanced stages of lung cancer.
According to the American Lung Association, about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths in women and 90 percent in men are linked to cigarette smoking. Others may be tied to a work environment or living in a city with high pollution levels. Prevention of most cases of lung cancer is clear cut:
- Don't smoke — and avoid secondhand smoke.
- Avoid exposure to harmful substances such as radon (radioactive gas), asbestos, talc (talcum powder is safe) and other chemicals or fumes found in certain workplaces.
- Limit your exposure to air pollution.
A small number of lung cancer cases occur in people who don’t smoke and don’t have exposure to toxic substances.
If you're considered at high risk for developing lung cancer, El Camino Health’s cancer program offers screening services, including a Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening. Free lung cancer screenings are available to those who are eligible. Other screenings for lung cancer may include a standard chest X-ray and sputum sample (mucus or phlegm you cough up for further study under a microscope). If your results indicate further testing is needed, your doctor may also recommend a bronchoscopy (scope procedure to look into the lungs) or CT scan.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms that can signal lung cancer include:
- A cough that doesn't go away and gets worse over time.
- Constant chest pain.
- Coughing up blood.
- Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness.
- Recurring cases of pneumonia or bronchitis.
Because there are different types of lung cancer that require different treatments, our diagnostic process is extremely important.
By using advanced imaging techniques to gathering precise information, our diagnostic experts can more accurately diagnose the type and extent of your cancer.
In addition to standard imaging techniques, such as CT scans, El Camino Health lung cancer specialists offer you advanced diagnostic imaging tests that help identify suspicious lung nodules and lymph nodes:
- Endobronchial ultrasound – Allows us to take tiny tissue samples from lymph nodes in the chest to determine the type and stage of a lung cancer.
- Navigational bronchoscopy – A new technique that allows biopsy of nodules in the chest previously not able to be reached with traditional bronchoscopy. A tiny catheter can be directed to a nodule anywhere in the lung during a minimally invasive surgical procedure. Tiny cells can be removed through a small tube in the chest and tested for cancer.
Lung Cancer Treatment
El Camino Health’s cancer program coordinates a treatment plan for you that may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapies or a combination of these treatments.
Surgery options include removing part or all of a lung with cancer. If you have an early-stage tumor, our lung surgeons can perform a minimally invasive video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), which uses several small incisions (instead of a large one) and special, long surgical tools. For larger tumors, your doctor makes a long incision on the side of the chest to reach and remove the tumor.
El Camino Health's cancer program offers all available radiation treatment options and thoroughly evaluates these options to decide which will provide the most effective results with the fewest side effects.
Our highly experienced radiation oncology experts use the latest techniques and technology to treat lung cancer, including stereotactic radiosurgery, adaptive radiation therapy, 4-D localization system radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy — all known for their high levels of precision and ability to spare healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
Doctors at our Radiation Treatment Center have performed more than 5,000 radiosurgery treatments for multiple types of cancer and offer consultations within 24 hours.
Our radiation oncologists also use brachytherapy (implantation of radioactive seeds) and were the first in the world to use a robotic-assisted procedure to place radioactive pellets up against a lung tumor.
Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to destroy cancerous cells. At El Camino Health Cancer Center, we aggressively treat not only your lung cancer but the side effects of chemotherapy. We respond quickly to give you anti-nausea and pain medication, as well as intravenous hydration. By managing your symptoms, we can keep your treatment course on track for maximum effectiveness.
El Camino Health is advanced among community hospitals in using targeted therapy to create a special combination of drugs that will combat your lung tumor. We study a sample of your tumor in a lab to analyze the proteins and chemicals makeup. Then, we use current data to decide which drugs will have the maximum effect in eliminating the cancer.
We’ve had success in using targeted therapies with non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer.
In addition to advanced therapies, El Camino Health offers a variety of specialized services, support and assistance to address the psychological, emotional and spiritual needs of you and your family members throughout treatment and recovery.
The El Camino Health Cancer Center works with other medical centers and the National Cancer Institute to offer you opportunities to participate in ongoing clinical trials. Ask your doctor about how to participate in a clinical trial.
In 2011, results from research done by the National Cancer Institute's National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) found that participants who received low-dose CT scans had a 20 percent lower risk of dying from lung cancer than participants who received standard chest X-rays. This proved for the first time that CT screening is an effective means to reduce lung cancer deaths.
At El Camino Health, we recently published a follow-up study — Community Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening — that supports current recommendations to use low-dose CT screening for lung cancer detection in carefully defined circumstances.