If you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer — the most common cause of cancer death in the United States in both men and women — it’s important to make sure that your care team is highly experienced with lung cancer, as treatment methods and standards have evolved dramatically in recent years. The team at Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida includes specialists who focus on lung cancer and are up to the minute on the latest advances and knowledge. Together, we offer a comprehensive program to fight it that includes:
- Lung cancer screening, for smokers and others at an increased risk.
Molecular analysis for every lung cancer patient, to identify the exact molecular subtype — crucial knowledge that informs clinical decisions and determines which treatment options are best for your specific cancer.
- Minimally invasive robotic surgery, including methods pioneered by our team and not widely available elsewhere in the region. In many cases, robotic surgery can offer a quicker recovery and less tissue damage compared to open surgery — the most common method nationwide — or other minimally invasive techniques.
- Advanced, precise radiation therapy techniques that help minimize side effects and tissue damage.
- A highly coordinated team-based approach to offer the most effective treatment and follow-up plan and a streamlined care experience
- A survivorship clinic and program to monitor and treat any recurrence, manage side effects and ensure that you and your family have access to all the resources you need.
- Sharing and applying new knowledge, demonstrated through Miami Cancer Institute’s membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, which aims to improve the lives of cancer patients through dynamic partnerships with other cancer centers and cancer care providers.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is abnormal cell growth in one or both lungs, usually in the lining of the main air passages. It can spread through your lymph system to other parts of your body. Lung cancer affects more than a quarter million people in the United States each year, and claims more than 150,000 lives. The survival rate for lung cancer that has not spread is now more than 50 percent in the United States, but unfortunately lung cancer is often diagnosed in later stages after it has spread. The overall survival rate varies by state, suggesting that the level of care can play a significant difference. Miami Cancer Institute’s outcomes and survival rates match or exceed those of other high-volume cancer centers across the U.S.
What are the types of lung cancer?
In years past, lung cancers were generally classified into two major types: Non-small cell lung cancer or small cell lung cancer. However, in recent years, many molecular subtypes have been identified and used to develop therapies that target specific markers or characteristics of the cancer cells. At Miami Cancer Institute, every lung cancer patient receives molecular analysis to better understand the cancer subtype and help identify the best treatment plan using immunotherapy and other advanced therapies. We believe this is a critical step, as every lung cancer case is different, and modern treatment methods depend on careful and accurate analysis.
The general types of lung cancer include:
- Non-small cell lung cancer. More than 85 percent of lung cancer diagnoses are non-small cell lung cancer. The types of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the types of cells where the cancer begins, and include:
- Adenocarcinoma, which begins in cells that line the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place)
- Squamous cell carcinoma, also called epidermoid carcinoma, which begins in the thin, flat cells in the lungs
- Large cell carcinoma, which can begin in large cells anywhere in the lungs
- Small cell lung cancer. Also known as oat-cell cancer, it accounts for less than 20 percent of lung cancer cases and tends to spread quickly to other parts of the body.
Some less common types of lung cancer include carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, sarcoma and unclassified carcinoma.
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. More than 80 percent of lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking. Women who smoke are more likely to develop lung cancer than men who smoke.
However, you can get lung cancer even if you don’t smoke, and sometimes the cause is never known. Other risk factors can include:
- Exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution and certain materials such as radiation, arsenic, radon, chromium, nickel, soot, tar and asbestos
- Personal history of lung illnesses, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis
- Radiation therapy to the breast or chest
- Family history of lung cancer
What can you do to prevent lung cancer?
Lung cancer may be one of the more preventable cancers. The most important thing you can do to prevent it and to protect those around you is to quit smoking — or never start. The sooner you quit, the better — but it’s never too late. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting; most people do. You can also avoid secondhand smoke and other pollutants as much as possible to lower your lung cancer risk.
Lung cancer screening cannot prevent lung cancer, but it can help detect it in early stages when it is much easier to treat. It also provides an opportunity for education and help with smoking cessation (quitting).
In the past, the prognosis for people who had stage four lung cancer was six months. Now, it’s possible they can live for years and be able to keep the cancer under control.