Breathe Easier. We Can Win This Fight Together.
Lung Cancer Care at Allegheny Health Network
Lung cancer. Regardless of whether you smoke, smoked, or never considered smoking, these two words can quite literally take your breath away.
Fortunately, there’s hope.
As a patient of the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, you receive care from expert doctors and surgeons who understand your concerns and your fears and use the most innovative approaches to treat a variety of lung cancers, including yours.
To ensure the best possible outcome, your treatment may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy or a combination of these approaches.
As the most experienced in the country with minimally invasive lung surgeries, the Cancer Institute's skilled surgeons utilize the very latest techniques and technologies. And with the strength of our vigorous research programs, you have direct access to innovative new clinical trials and therapies.
Our cancer care team, along with your 24/7 Care Navigator coordinates a personalized treatment for you, supporting your challenges, helping you better manage your emotions, listening to your concerns and strengthening your overall well-being.
Remember, your best treatment for lung cancer in just one breath away. Right here in Pittsburgh, at The Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute.
Click on the links below to learn more about prevention, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and screenings for lung cancer at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute.
Preventing Lung Cancer
The decisions you make can make a big difference in significantly reducing your risk of getting lung cancer. First, don’t smoke – 80 percent of all lung cancer related deaths are due to smoking. And make sure you talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking so they can better handle peer pressure to start.
If you do smoke, stop immediately or get help to do so. Even if you’ve smoked for years quitting will reduce your risk. Do your best to also avoid secondhand – despite recent stories and rumors to the contrary – you can get lung cancer from second hand smoke. When out in public, seek out smoke-free bar and restaurants. Your doctor can also suggest many stop-smoking tools and aids that can help, including nicotine replacement products, medications and support groups. Visit our Events page for more information about programs offered near you.
Some other steps you can take to avoid developing lung cancer include:
- Test your home for radon. Radon is radioactive gas that cannot be seen, tasted or smelled. In some homes or other building, especially in basements, it can be detected in high levels. Have your radon levels checks by a professional and purchase a radon detector for your home. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection for more information about radon.
- Protect yourself form cancer-causing agents at work. Workplace carcinogens include asbestos, uranium, arsenic, diesel exhaust and coal products. Follow your employer’s precautions, such as wearing a face mask, and talk with your them about additional prevention strategies. Keep in mind too that your risk of lung damage from workplace carcinogens increases if you smoke.
- Make good food choices. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as eating more foods, like salmon, that are high in omega-3 fatty acids will lower your overall risk.
- Exercise regularly. Try to get some sort of exercise every day for 30 minutes.
- Get screened. If you experience symptoms associated with lung cancer, have smoked for 15 or more years, or have been exposed to carcinogens contact an ELI physician for appropriate screening at 724.260.7300.
Lung Cancer Symptoms
In its early stages, lung cancer doesn’t typically cause any extremely obvious symptoms. However, symptoms can occur and if you experience any of the ones listed below, contact the Esophageal and Lung Institute so that our doctors can evaluate you with a quick and accurate diagnosis and implement the most effective treatment plan for you:
- A cough that does not go away or gets worse
- Changes in a typical "smoker’s cough"
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up even the smallest amount of blood
- Chest pain (even from deep breathing, coughing, or laughing)
- Weight loss and/or loss of appetite
- Feeling tired or weak
- Infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, that don’t go away or keep recurring
If lung cancer has already spread to other organs, you may experience these signs and symptoms:
- Bone pain, such as in the back or hips
- Nervous system changes (headache, dizziness, balance problems, or weakness or numbness of an arm or leg) from cancer spreading to the brain or spinal cord
- Yellowing of your skin and eyes (jaundice) from cancer spreading to the liver
- Lumps near the surface of your body, such as in your neck or collarbone, from cancer spreading to your skin or lymph nodes
Diagnosing Lung Cancer
Here at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, we use sophisticated screening and diagnostic technologies that provide you with a precise and accurate diagnosis. Our doctors, radiologists, and clinicians are highly specialized in the detection and evaluation of leukemia and lymphoma and use state-of-the-art imaging and diagnostic resources to determine the location, stage and type of cancer, as well as screen, prevent and treat your cancer.
Our advanced diagnostic tests for lung cancer include:
- Chest X-rays. These photographs of your chest can show abnormal areas of interest.
- Bronchoscopy. In this procedure a lighted flexible camera is passed through your mouth and into the large airways to visualize portions of the lungs.
- Endobronchial ultrasound. This bronchoscopy procedure involves the emission of ultrasound waves from a scope to identify and biopsy lymph nodes in your respiratory tract. This procedure also assists with staging of the cancer and treatment planning.
- Mediastinoscopy and mediastinotomy. This visual and physical inspection of the area between the lungs is used to remove lymph nodes for staging.
- Thoracentesis. In this procedure a needle is inserted between the ribs, to remove fluid surrounding the lungs, in order to test for cancerous cells or other indications.
- Thoracoscopy. Making a small incision in your chest, a camera is passed into the cavity between the lungs and chest wall. The camera then visualizes this area to collect biopsies of suspicious tissues.
- Sputum cytology. Coughed up mucus is collected and analyzed under a microscope for cancerous cells.
- Fine needle biopsy. This procedure involves inserting a tiny needle into an area where a tumor is present. A small tissue sample is then removed and analyzed under a microscope to look for cellular changes.
- PET (positron emission tomography) and CT (computed tomography) scans. Using penetrating waves to produce images to detect cancer, a PET scan introduces a radioactive substance through your vein, which collects in organs and tissues, and is detected by a scanner and converted into 3-D images. CT scans show the structure of blood flow to and within your organs.
- Individualized tumor profiling. This allows identification of tumor-specific biomarkers and utilizes a meticulous review of existing research to best select what medical treatments might work best for your individual disease and condition.
Treating Lung Cancer
At the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute, our team of doctors and surgeons, and radiation and medical oncologists, ensure that you have access to the highest quality of care available, including every possible treatment, procedure and clinical trial best suited to improve your overall well-being.
Our extensive treatment options include:
The Cancer Institute's surgeons utilize the latest techniques and technologies and are among the most experienced in the country with minimally invasive lung surgeries. This expertise ensures the best possible outcome from your treatment, and less invasive procedures minimize the possible risk of complications, reduce your recovery time, and diminish the overall impact to your well being. And even if you are not a candidate for minimally invasive surgery, you have several other treatments options that are just as effective in giving you a positive result.
Our advanced surgical options for lung cancer include:
- Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). This minimally invasive surgery treats diseases of the lung, mediastinum and chest wall. Our surgeons insert a thorascope (small videoscope) and surgical instruments through one-inch incisions in your abdomen and chest to perform various procedures, such as tumor removals from your esophagus, lungs, chest wall, sternum and trachea.
- Endoscopic resection. This minimally invasive procedure uses a long, narrow tube with a light, video camera and other instruments to remove early-stage abnormalities/cancer cells or to collect tissues for diagnosis.
- Wedge resection. This procedure removes a small section of your lung that contains the tumor, along with some of the surrounding healthy tissue.
- Segmental lung resection. This operation involves removing a large portion of your lung but not the entire lobe, or a portion of your chest wall or tumor.
- Lobectomy and Pneumonectomy. A Lobectomy removes the entire lobe of one of your lungs while a Pneumonectomy involves the removal of your entire lung.
- Resection of mediastinal masses. This procedure removes tumors in the area of your chest that separates your lungs.
- Pleurectomy. This operation involves peeling the tumor away from your lungs, ribs, diaphragm, and chest wall while keeping those structures in place. This will not cure the disease, but may relieve symptoms.
Radiation Therapy is often used in combination with surgery to shrink and destroy cancer cells. Along with your doctor, you can decide what course of treatment will be most beneficial as it relates to your overall diagnosis.
Here at the Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute we use state-of-the-art technology, including advanced computer software and imaging, to administer high–dose radiation beams directly to a tumor, minimizing your overall exposure.
As the only radiation oncology network accredited in western Pennsylvania by both the American Society for Radiation Oncology and American College of Radiology, you can feel assured knowing you are receiving the highest quality care available. This accreditation means that the Cancer Institute at Allegheny Health Network meets specific guidelines for patient safety, quality control, and efficiency of equipment.
Our advanced radiation treatments for lung cancer include:
- Adaptive radiation therapy (ART). This therapy uses imaging prior to radiation treatment delivery to analyze if there are significant changes in your anatomy and/or the tumor. If there are changes, the radiation dose is recalculated.
- 4-D CT simulation. This radiation treatment planning procedure involves advanced computed tomography (CT) scans and 4-dimensional (4-D) equipment and software. A 4-D CT simulation allows for the visualization of your internal anatomy and the tumor during breathing. This allows for more precise tumor targeting and less radiation dose to normal tissue, which improves cancer-control rates and lessens side effects.
- Gated delivery. This procedure uses specific equipment and software used with a linear accelerator (radiation treatment delivery machine) during radiation treatment to monitor patient breathing and tumor movement. During treatment delivery, the radiation beam can be turned on and off based on your breathing cycle, allowing for more precise treatment and less radiation to normal tissues.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). This therapy uses sophisticated computer technology to map the precise dimensions and density of cancerous tumors. Afterward, virtual treatment simulations are performed, and with minimal harm to surrounding healthy tissue, the radiation dose's shape and intensity is conformed to the simulation's exact parameters.
- Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT). This technique combines the precision of image guidance, the accuracy of IMRT, and motion management (4-D CT and Anzai respiratory gating) to deliver high doses of radiation in less than five treatments. This technique was pioneered at Allegheny Health Network Cancer Institute and has dramatically improved our ability to control tumors.
- Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET-CT). This advanced imaging technique combines the functional activity of PET with the structural anatomy of CT for cancer staging and radiation treatment planning.
- Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). An advanced radiation technique that limits potential side effects, SBRT delivers precise high dose radiation to lung tumors in only one to five treatments. This therapy has proven to improve cure rates in a manner previously not achievable by standard conventional radiation therapy. At Allegheny Health Network we’ve treated hundreds of patients successfully with this technique.
- I-125 Vicryl mesh brachytherapy. This technique allows the placement of radioactive sources into the surgical cavity at the time of operation. It also reduces the amount of lung that needs to be removed and can help patients with poor lung function.
- 3-D conformal external-beam radiation therapy. This form of treatment planning is based on computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and/or positron-emission tomography (PET), and allows for the 3-D reconstruction of tumors and normal tissue. This approach produces an accurate image of the tumor, and surrounding organs, so radiation oncologists can mold multiple radiation beams to the exact shape and contour of the tumor.
- High-dose rate (HDR) endobronchial and esophageal brachytherapy. This type of internal radiation therapy delivers high doses of radiation from radioactive seeds that are temporarily implanted in your airway or esophagus close to or inside the tumor. Typically given on an outpatient basis over numerous days, HDR ensures the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
The department of Medical Oncology specializes in diagnosing and caring for patients with a variety of medicines, including chemotherapy, hyperthermic intraperitioneal chemoperfusion (HIPEC), immunotherapy, and targeted therapy, adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapy. Medicines are administered by mouth (oral) or by vein (intravenous) depending upon the treatment plan developed by your primary doctor or medical oncologist. Throughout your care, your doctor will coordinate your medication needs and your 24/7 Care Navigator may also be a part of this coordinated care effort.
The Cancer Institute’s advanced medical oncology therapies include:
- Chemotherapy. Similar in the same way that antibiotics kill bacteria, chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Because of the potency of these drugs, and their ability to sometimes also damage normal cells, side effects can occur, including hair loss, nausea and lowered blood counts. Fortunately, your body’s normal cells repair themselves much better than cancer cells. Throughout your treatment, we carefully monitor your wellness and determine medication requirements that can reduce side effects and maximize the chemotherapy’s effectiveness. Chemotherapy can be given to patients intravenously through a vein in the arm or through an implanted venous catheter, such as mediport, or orally through a pill.
- Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion (HIPEC). This is a highly concentrated, heated chemotherapy that is directly into the chest cavity.
- Immunotherapy. This form of biological therapy is designed to help your immune system fight your cancer better. Working to enhance immune system function at the cellular level, immunotherapy utilizes cancer vaccines, genetically engineered human immune stimulatory molecules, and monoclonal antibodies (cloned antibodies from healthy cells used to support the immune system to help it fight cancer).
- Targeted therapy. This therapy is less toxic, and in some cases, more effective than traditional chemotherapy. It works by attacking specific genes within the surrounding blood vessels that help cancer to grow.
- Adjuvant therapy. This treatment is given after surgery to reduce the chance of residual microscopic cancer cells remaining in your body. It may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
- Neoadjuvant therapy. This treatment is given before surgery and may include chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. It may reduce the amount of tumor remaining at the time of surgery, allowing for a more conservative operation.
Lung Cancer Screening
Screening for lung cancer increases the chances of detecting the disease early, when it’s most treatable, and potentially most curable. One of the most effective screening tools is low-dose computed tomography (also referred to as low-dose scan or LCDT). In this test, an X-ray machine is used to scan the body using low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs.
It is recommended to you be screened if you are between 55 and 80 years old, have a history of heavy smoking (one pack a day average, a year for 30 years), and currently smoke or have quit with in the past 15 years. Learn more about lung cancer screenings.
Throughout your program care, your doctor will coordinate your leukemia and lymphoma care needs and your 24/7 Care Navigator may also be a part of this coordinated care effort.