Lung cancer is cancer that begins in or spreads to the lungs, the two organs found in the chest that help you breathe.
The lungs are made up of areas called lobes. The right lung has three lobes; the left lung has two, so there's room for the heart. When you breathe, air goes through your nose, down your windpipe (trachea), and into the lungs where it spreads through tubes called bronchi. Most lung cancer begins in the cells that line these tubes.
There are two main types of lung cancer:
If the lung cancer is made up of both types, it is called mixed small cell/large cell cancer. If the cancer started somewhere else in the body and spread to the lungs, it is called metastatic cancer to the lung.
The Wake Forest Baptist Approach
The Thoracic Oncology Program consolidates the services of a team of physicians and other health care professionals who care for patients with malignancies of the chest including lung cancer, mesothelioma, carcinoid tumor and thymoma.
The program’s primary goal is to facilitate communication among physicians to provide the highest level of care for patients with these common and uncommon chest malignancies.
Evaluating treatment options and determining a course of action as quickly as possible is of great importance. Therefore, the team includes cancer specialists in pulmonary medicine, medical oncology, cardiothoracic surgery, radiation oncology, radiology and pathology. Members of the team discuss new cases and develop the most effective treatment plan for each patient.
As a Comprehensive Cancer Center, we offer our patients access to the best diagnostic tools and the latest advances in treatment, which include interventional pulmonary procedures, surgical techniques, radiation techniques and chemotherapy.
The team is involved in clinical trials testing novel therapies including combinations of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Research protocols are available to study new approaches, particularly in the difficult but common diagnosis of lung cancer. Making cutting-edge research and treatments available to lung cancer patients is the only way real progress will be made in improving both length and quality-of-life.
We have also initiated a protocol to study chemotherapy effects in older adults because half of the patients with lung cancer are now over the age of 70. Patients with cancers of the chest may participate in the clinical and basic science protocols of national cooperative groups like the Cancer and Leukemia Group B and the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group.
The Comprehensive Cancer Center is the site for a clinical trial evaluating the use of dose-dense chemotherapy as front-line treatment for patients with advanced, non-small cell lung cancer, which has a high mortality rate. This clinical trial is studying intensive, intravenous chemotherapy with the support of growth factors to stimulate the production of red blood cells and white blood cells, which should minimize symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, fever and infections.
After initial chemotherapy, patients receive dose-intense therapy with an oral drug that targets the epidermal growth factor receptor. We hope that this research study will result in high response rates and durable responses.
Several clinical trials are underway to evaluate the use of stereotactic radiotherapy in the treatment of lung tumors. These are revolutionary radiation treatments that can control many tumors more than 90% of the time, eliminating the need for surgical intervention. These treatments may ultimately help us cure more patients with otherwise deadly lung tumors.