Each year, about 200,000 people in the United States are told they have lung cancer and more than 150,000 people die from this disease. Deaths from lung cancer represent about one out of every six deaths from cancer in the U.S. (cdc.gov).
While lung cancer grows very slowly, it often grows undetected and is found only when it has already spread to other parts of the body.
Because of the impact of lung cancer, people are now aware of the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke. Employers (and the agencies that govern them) are increasingly vigilant about protecting workers from hazardous exposures that augment lung cancer risk. Across the nation, top researchers are working on new screening methods and new treatments to win the fight against lung cancer – and each and every one of these studies is available to our patients.
In addition, at St. John Providence Health we have physicians with nationally renowned expertise in the treatment of lung cancer. Our multidisciplinary approach to cancer care ensures that in a single visit, each patient receives a complete team of nationally recognized experts, including: Pulmonologist, Radiation Oncologist, Medical Oncologist, Thoracic Surgeon and Oncology Nurse.
Prevention, Screening and Treatment
By the time lung cancer is detected, the disease is often dangerously advanced. So patients need treatment that offers every possible advantage. They need fast diagnosis and the opportunity to review all treatment options quickly. St. John Providence Health System offers screening, prevention and treatment with a staff committed to providing the fastest and most comprehensive services available. Here’s how:
- A counselor is available immediately to consult with you on your symptoms and collect a comprehensive history to assess your risk for the disease.
- This counselor can also discuss ways to minimize your risk for lung cancer.
- A full range of screening options provides the potential for quick and accurate detection.
- Patients have access to all national clinical trials.
- Our multidisciplinary team of physicians work together closely to provide the optimal treatment regimen for every patient with lung cancer, providing important advantages for those who:
- Have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer.
- Have risk factors for lung cancer.
- Have been referred by their family physician or another surgeon for a second opinion about their lung cancer.
Low Dose CT Lung Cancer Screening
The findings of a recent national trial showed that there was a 20% increase in survival when lung cancer was diagnosed with a low-dose CT instead of traditional X-ray. If you or someone you love is a current or former smoker with a history of smoking a pack of cigarettes or more a day for at least 20 years, you may want to make an appointment for a low-dose CT for lung cancer screening – now offered at several St. John Providence imaging locations.
A screening CT is not covered by insurance but is available for only $99 out-of-pocket cost. Ask your doctor about low dose CT lung cancer screening or call our Cancer Care Coordinator, toll free at 866-246-4673.
Learn more about the Low Dose Lung CT in an interview with Dr. Michael Kraut.
How To Reach Us
To schedule a consultation, call toll-free 1-866-246-4673
Patients who have been diagnosed with lung cancer may come to us for a second opinion consultation. Second opinions are strongly recommended for all cancer diagnoses, so that you and your oncologist can choose the best treatment. Patients should ask their physicians to submit pathology materials for our review; each case receives a written evaluation.
Who’s On Your Team?
Our multidisciplinary approach to cancer care ensures that in a single visit, each patient receives a complete team of nationally recognized experts, including:
- Radiation Oncologist
- Medical Oncologist
- Thoracic Surgeon
- Oncology Nurse
How We Treat You
- Lifestyle Counseling: Our staff counselor can work with you to create lifestyle and exercise guidelines to minimize your risk for lung cancer.
- Comprehensive history: Our counselors will work with you to obtain a complete history, including determining your exposure to risk factors. These may include smoking or second-hand smoke. Risk factors also include careers such as firefighting, chemical industry work and a history of work that involved inhalation of fumes from heavy metals, like early chrome plating techniques before environmental guidelines were established.
- Sputum cytology: Phlegm or spit is examined under a microscope for cancer cells.
- X-Ray: This simple photographic imaging test looks for lung cancer or to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.
- CT Scan: Also known as computed tomography, this painless imaging technique uses a special X-ray tube and detectors to produce detailed images of entire areas of the body (regular X-rays focus on just one part of the body). This helps to reveal cancer in the lungs as well as cancer that may have spread to other areas.
- MRI: Also known as magnetic resonance imaging, an image created by magnetic fields helps to reveal cancer in the lungs and other areas of the body. This service is offered at St. John Hospital.
- PET Scans: Also known as Positron Emission Tomography, this nuclear medicine exam views biochemical and physiological changes in tissues, as opposed to CT or MRI scans, which look for changes in anatomy. PET scans can examine the whole body with a single scan and can help determine if a nodule in the lungs is cancerous.
- Needle biopsy: A needle is used to remove a piece of tissue, which is then checked by the lab for cancer cells.
- Low-dose CT: The findings of a recent national trial that showed a 20% increase in survival when lung cancer was diagnosed with a low-dose CT instead of traditional X-ray. If you or someone you love is a current or former smoker with a history of smoking a pack of cigarettes or more a day for at least 20 years, you may want to make an appointment for a low-dose CT for lung cancer screening – now offered at several St. John Providence imaging locations.
A screening CT is not covered by insurance but is available for a $99 out-of pocket cost. Ask your doctor about low dose CT lung cancer screening or call our Cancer Care Coordinator, toll free at 866-246-4673.
To determine how far the cancer has spread, your cancer care team uses a process of analysis known as staging. The stage of your cancer impacts your treatment and the prognosis for recovery. A number of different staging systems can be used to classify tumors. The TNM staging system assesses tumors in three ways: size of the primary tumor (T), whether it has spread to lymph nodes (N), and whether it has spread (metastasized) to other organs (M). Once the T, N, and M are determined, a number of I, II, III, or IV is assigned, with stage I being early stage and IV being advanced. In general, the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. A higher number, such as stage IV, denotes a more serious case. Your doctor will review your test results and tell you the stage of your cancer.
The three main treatments used to treat lung cancer are:
- Radiation Oncology: High-energy rays are used to kill or shrink cancer cells. For lung cancer, external radiation is most often used (as opposed to radiation implants). Radiation may be the main treatment for lung cancer, or it may be used after surgery to ensure all areas of cancer are killed. It can also be used to relieve uncomfortable symptoms such as pain, bleeding, and trouble swallowing. Side effects usually disappear after treatment ends and can include skin irritation, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue. Chest radiation can also cause lung damage and breathing difficulties.
- Chemotherapy: Depending on the type of lung cancer and the stage, chemotherapy may be the main treatment, or it may be used in addition to surgery. Anticancer drugs are injected or given by mouth. They enter the bloodstream and flow throughout your body, which helps to fight cancers that have spread. Side effects can include diarrhea, nausea, loss of hair, rashes on hands and feet, mouth sores and fatigue. Most of these side effects disappear once treatment ends.
- Surgery: A hospital stay of one to two weeks is usually needed. Surgery is followed by chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery may involve removing the tumor and some of the lung tissue around it or removing the entire lung. After the surgery, you will feel some pain, because in order to reach the lungs, the surgeon must cut through the ribs.
Our processes can help you assess your best treatment options and begin fighting your cancer quickly – usually within two weeks of your diagnosis:
- If a screening shows an abnormality, we will contact you to return within a week to consult with a pulmonologist.
- Often that same day a biopsy will be conducted, and our pathologists will determine whether the abnormality is cancer. You will generally get these results within two working days.
- The multidisciplinary team (see Who’s on your Team, above) meets every other week in a thoracic conference to review patients’ cases. This means that your case will be presented to this team at their next meeting, providing the input of all the team members at once and access to information on any clinical trials for which you may be eligible.
- Once you have met with your multidisciplinary team, you and your doctor will develop the best plan for your treatment.
- Within two weeks of your diagnosis, your action plan for care can be developed and treatment can begin.
Once you have received treatment, one member of your team will take the lead in your follow-up care. This is usually your pulmonologist (sometimes in conjunction with your primary care physician). These individuals will follow up with you to check your healing progress, conduct breathing assessments and address any concerns, and keep all other members of your team informed of your progress.
If follow-up visits determine your treatment was successful (usually after six months), you will receive annual checkups through your primary care physician.
Your follow-up care can also include other services, such as occupational therapy. We treat your whole person, not just your cancer, for complete healing of body, mind and spirit. Patients whose breathing has been affected by surgery may have to re-learn tasks they once took for granted; our therapists will be there to help you maximize your quality of life.
We also offer many routes to spiritual strengthening at our special Healing Arts Center.
If you are concerned that you are at risk for lung cancer or may have lung cancer, quick action is your best ally. Prompt treatment could extend your life and relieve symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your physician:
- Hoarseness or a cough that does not go away
- Pain in your chest
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Bloody spit or phlegm
- Shortness of breath
- Recurring infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
- Unusual wheezing
The following symptoms can occur when lung cancer has spread:
- Painful or aching bones
- Numbness or weakness in the arms or legs
- Swellings that appear just beneath the skin
While these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have lung cancer, we will be ready with prompt screening services to put your mind at ease or to help you begin fighting the disease as early as possible. Clinical Trials (see Clinical Trials, below): Ask your physician about participating in clinical trials, which offer access to promising new treatments.
We are one of only 13 facilities nationwide whose patients have access to all national clinical trials. Clinical trials are conducted to study promising new treatments that have shown potential value to patients. While there can be risks, these studies offer the most leading-edge treatment options and are often found to have great benefits to patients. Taking part in a clinical trial is up to you, and once you have joined the study, you are free to leave it at any time, for any reason.
A few examples of the many clinical trials for currently available to qualified lung cancer patients are:
- Study of response to gene therapy and radiation oncology in patients with non-small cell lung cancer
- Testing of a vaccine that may help lung cancer patients build an immune response and fight the tumor cells
- Evaluation of the effectiveness of chemotherapy combined with augmerosen in treating patients who have extensive-stage small cell lung cancer. Augmerosen may make tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy.
- A study of the effectiveness in inhaling the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin as opposed to injecting or taking it orally
For a list of current clinical trials, visit our Clinical Trials and Research page or call the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER.
We believe the strength of your mind and spirit is essential to your body’s healing process. Our Healing Arts Center is available for you to use, providing services such as massage, reflexology, mediation, music and art therapies and holistic assessment.
Reducing Your Risk
Here are a few of the ways we can help you prevent lung cancer: Lifestyle Counseling (see Specialized Services, above):
The most important way to protect yourself against lung cancer is not to smoke and to avoid people who are smoking. Beware of environmental factors, too, such as asbestos, radon and formaldehyde (click here for more information).
Additional Information & Resources
- St. John Providence Lung Cancer Awareness Month Information Page
- NIH Lung Cancer booklet
St. John Providence Health System Pulmonary Nodule Clinics
The SJPHS Pulmonary Nodule Clinics provide patients with comprehensive, multidisciplinary and expedited evaluation, as well as ongoing care of pulmonary nodules. The clinics are designed to minimize delays in evaluation and treatment.
We strive to identify any potential thoracic cancers early when they are most treatable. Fortunately, not every nodule ends up with a diagnosis of cancer. Early detection, accurate diagnosis, and swift intervention are major factors which lead to an encouraging and beneficial outcome.
Frequently nodules do not present with any signs or symptoms, or cause any pain. However, nodules could also be an early indication of malignancy.
Pulmonary nodules are a common radiographic finding. As many as 150,000 cases are detected on x-ray or CT scan as incidental finding each year. Because chest x-rays or CT scans help to identify a wide variety of lung disorders, pulmonary nodules MUST be thoroughly evaluated, diagnosed, appropriately treated and followed on a regular basis.
The SJPHS Pulmonary Nodule Clinics provide prompt evaluation, diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of all types of chest malignancies. Results are communicated to you and your primary care physician within a timely manner. We strive to identify lung cancer early when it is most treatable, saving patients from unnecessary diagnostic procedures and interventions.
The SJPHS Pulmonary Nodule Clinical teams consist of expert pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, and a Thoracic Nurse Navigator to efficiently guide the patient through the process after a pulmonary nodule has been discovered.
Any high-risk findings or newly diagnosed cancers will be presented at Multidisciplinary Thoracic Tumor Board which includes:
- Thoracic surgery
- Medical Oncology
- Radiation Oncology
- Clinical Trials
- Nurse Navigator
To develop/review an individualized treatment plan for each patient.
Any patient with an abnormal chest x-ray, CT scan or other lung concerns can be referred to the SJPHS Pulmonary Nodule Clinics, as well as self-referrals.
Please contact one of our Thoracic Nurse Navigators:
Sarah Sobieralski RN, BSN, OCN, at 248-849-5773
at Providence Hospital
Colette Carter RN, BSN at 313-647-3150
at St.John and Macomb Hospitals
or our Cancer Care Coordinator at 1-866-246-4673.