Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women in the United States and more importantly, is responsible for more deaths than any other cancer.
- In 2012, it is estimated that greater than 225,000 people will be newly diagnosed with lung cancer and 160,000 people will die from it.
- Cancer cells are those that grow at an uncontrolled rate and form a mass. These tumor cells can cause problems from the size of the cancer, erosion into blood vessels and air passages to cause coughing of blood, or by spreading to sites outside of the lung (metastasis). Lung cancer can spread to lymph nodes or to other sites in the body including the brain, bones, liver, and adrenal gland.
Staging of Lung Cancer
- Lung cancer is classified by the cell type (small cell or non-small cell lung carcinoma) and by the stage of the cancer. Stage refers to how advanced the cancer is when it is first diagnosed. This staging system has prognostic significance. Patients with stage I cancers often have the best survival with those with stage IV disease have a limited life expectancy.
- In simplistic terms, stage I cancers are small cancers limited to the lung itself, without spread to lymph nodes or other sites in the body.
- Stage II cancers are defined as those that have presence of cancer in lymph nodes within the lung.
- Stage III cancers are often categorized as such because of lymph node involvement outside of the lung, but still within the chest cavity.
- Patients with stage IV lung cancer are those whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Staging of lung cancer has very important treatment implications.
- For patients that are good candidates: stage I cancers, surgery is often best; patients with stage II cancers receive surgery and then chemotherapy; stage III cancer patients often receive a combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery; and stage IV patients usually receive just chemotherapy.
- Unfortunately, when their cancer is discovered, most patients (approximately 75%) have more advanced, or stage III or IV, disease.
It is for this reason that White Plains Hospital has opted to begin its own Lung Cancer Screening program. The premise behind this endeavor is to detect lung cancers as early as possible in order to give patients the best chance to beat this often fatal disease.
The reason that most patients, at the time of diagnosis, have advanced lung cancer that is not suitable for surgical removal is because early lung cancers often don’t cause symptoms. When patients suffer from symptoms from their lung cancer, it usually due to advanced disease.
- Symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, chest pain, bone pain, pneumonia, weight loss, or issues with dizziness or weakness.
Lung Cancer Care at White Plains Hospital
Physicians at White Plains Hospital have the latest technological advances at their disposal in order to effectively diagnose and appropriately stage lung cancer. Imaging studies such as CT scans, PET scans, and MRI are readily available with prompt interpretation by expert radiologists. Every effort is made to expedite these tests in order to minimize patient’s anxiety about their condition. We understand the incredible amount of stress that the diagnosis of lung cancer creates and we are determined to diminish this as much as possible.
Imaging tests are quite helpful, but our thoracic surgeons may need to employ procedures to properly stage lung cancer. They are experienced in the latest, minimally-invasive, interventions and can often determine proper treatment without the need for surgical incisions.
- Namely, White Plains Hospital Thoracic Surgeons utilize endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) guided biopsies in order to stage lung cancer when appropriate. Not only do they have significant experience with this technologic advancement, several have taught this procedure to other surgeons and have been asked to provide their expertise about EBUS at national meetings to hundreds of physicians.
After a complete work-up has been performed, patient’s cases are often reviewed in a multidisciplinary conference whose focus is on the most effective treatment for lung cancer. These meetings are attended by our thoracic surgeons with their medical and radiation oncology colleagues as well as medical physicians specializing specifically in lung diseases. This conference was developed to harvest the collective experience of White Plains Hospital in order to formulate the most effective treatment plan. When appropriate, lung cancers are analyzed for genetic alterations that may make them more susceptible to specific therapies. This investigation is routinely performed in our institution. We also utilize the services of case managers and social workers in order to maximize community resources to benefit our patients.
When surgery is deemed to be in the best interest of our patients, White Plains Hospital offers state-of-the-art expertise in the surgical approach to treating lung cancer. Minimally-invasive surgical procedures to remove of lung cancers are frequently utilized. These approaches have been proven to lead to a speedier recovery, less pain, and a shorter hospital stay when compared to the surgery performed via larger incisions. Thoracic Surgeons at White Plains Hospital have been recognized for their skill with minimally-invasive operations as they have written textbook chapters and journal articles, spoken at national meetings, and taught other surgeons about their techniques. This institution is not a training hospital and as such, patients are not exposed to trainees who are just learning this challenging craft. For lung cancer resections, two board-certified surgeons are present for the entire operation. Patients greatly benefit from the combined experience of these seasoned surgeons.
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