Lung cancer occurs when cells in the lungs begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably, usually along the air passages. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and accounts for 25% of all cancer deaths in the U.S., making it the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women.
There are several types of lung cancer, but the most common are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCL) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCL is the most common and occurs mostly in smokers, but is also the most common type of lung cancer in non-smokers. SCLC tends to grow and spread faster than NSCL and has a higher chance of returning later in the patient’s life.
Causes & Risks
The leading cause of lung cancer is smoking tobacco. Other factors can contribute, and people who have never smoked can also get lung cancer. Risk factors include the following:
- Smoking tobacco
- Secondhand smoke
- Radon exposure
- Asbestos exposure
- Chemicals or carcinogens in the workplace
- Certain dietary supplements
- Arsenic in drinking water
- Previous radiation therapy to the lungs
- Air pollution
- Personal or family history of lung cancer
Signs & Symptoms
In most cases, symptoms won’t show up until the cancer has spread, but some people may notice symptoms early on.
- Cough that won’t go away
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain that worsens with deep breaths, coughing or laughing
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent bronchitis or pneumonia
As the cancer spreads, there could be other symptoms such as the following:
- Bone pain
- Nervous system changes such as headaches, dizziness, balance problems or seizures
- Yellowing of the skin
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or collarbone
For patients at risk for lung cancer, a low dose CT scan (LDCT) can be performed to find any abnormal areas in the lungs that may be cancerous. For those at higher risk, it’s recommended to receive a LDCT scan annually for the best chance of finding cancers before symptoms start.
If a nodule is found during the LDCT, your doctor may recommend more imaging tests to get a better look or to see how it’s moving or growing overtime. Depending on the findings, the doctor may recommend a biopsy to get a sample of the tissue to determine if it’s cancerous. Your doctor will walk you through every step and keep you informed.
Lung-nodule scanning is available at UT Health East Texas facilities in:
To learn more or schedule an appointment, call:
UT Health East Texas Pulmonary Institute at North Campus Tyler at 903-877-7916
UT Health East Texas Pulmonary Institute at S. Fleishel - A department of UT Health Tyler at 903-592-6901
The UT Health East Texas Lung Nodule Program
The UT Health East Texas lung nodule program was designed to gather a multidisciplinary team to provide expert evaluation, early diagnosis and timely treatment of nodules detected in the lung.
Our healthcare specialists use evidence-based guidelines in their evaluations and conduct weekly meetings to review the courses of treatment, which are customized for each patient. We provide specialized and coordinated patient care that results in improved clinical outcomes.
Highlights of the program include
- Prompt scheduling of initial visit
- On-site CT scanning with same-day interpretation
- Timely assessment, diagnosis and recommendations
- Management of follow-up visits
- Coordination of care with multiple specialists
- Ongoing communication with referring physician
- Patient education
All lung nodules should be evaluated to determine if the mass is cancer, represents a precancerous condition or may be cancer spreading from another part of the body.
Most nodules are not cancerous and can be traced to a number of benign conditions, including infections or scars. The nodule may have been in the lung for years without causing any symptoms.
Initial evaluations may include the following:
- Diagnostic imaging
- Breathing test
- Evaluation by a lung specialist
- Plan for follow-up monitoring
Some patients may receive a periodic series of CT scans to monitor a growing nodule, which may indicate a possible cancer. The physician will take into account whether the patient is at higher risk for lung cancer.
Each patient in the program receives optimal, customized treatment based on thorough examination by the UT Health East Texas multidisciplinary team of specialists. Patients are offered access to the latest clinical trials.
This program is designed to simplify the process for the patient, eliminating unnecessary office visits and duplicated procedures, while ensuring timely follow-up and optimal care.
The multidisciplinary team
Experts from the pulmonology, diagnostic radiology, diagnostic pathology, medical oncology thoracic surgery and radiation oncology collaborate on the patient’s individual health plan.
A lung nurse navigator obtains background information from the patient’s referring physician before the first visit. This helps coordinate care from diagnosis through treatment and enables the patient to focus on recovery and healing.