Bronchoscopy and Interventional Pulmonology for Lung Cancer

Advanced techniques diagnose and treat cancer so you can breathe easier.

Interventional pulmonology offers minimally invasive options to diagnose and treat lung tumors. It also provides therapeutic treatments to relieve pain and breathing difficulty.

Henry Ford Health System has Michigan’s only comprehensive interventional pulmonology program. Our team helped develop some of the advanced minimally invasive lung procedures used today. 

What is interventional pulmonology?

When a doctor needs to look at your airways or lungs to diagnose or treat a lung condition, it doesn’t always mean you’ll need surgery. With interventional pulmonology, doctors can examine the airways and lungs without surgery.
Henry Ford’s interventional pulmonologists are key members of our lung cancer team. Interventional pulmonologists take part in weekly tumor board meetings, where our entire team plans the best options for each patient.

Interventional pulmonology can help:

  • Diagnose and treat lung cancer
  • Destroy tumors
  • Make breathing easier
  • Prepare you for chemotherapy using therapeutic techniques

Interventional procedures to diagnose and treat lung and thoracic cancer

Our interventional pulmonologists often perform bronchoscopy to diagnose and treat thoracic cancer, including lung cancer. This minimally invasive procedure uses a hollow, flexible tube that we can see through, called a bronchoscope.

The bronchoscope has a light and camera at the end of it. This camera can take video or photos. Your doctor also can use it to biopsy (take samples from) tumors or abnormal tissue in your lungs.

Today, interventional pulmonologists use bronchoscopy along with other highly advanced procedures. Bronchoscopic procedures do not require open surgery, cuts or incisions. Usually, patients go home the same day.

What to Expect During a Bronchoscopy

A bronchoscopy allows doctors to examine the inside of your lungs, without incisions or surgery.

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Should I Get Screened?

Not everyone needs to be screened for lung cancer. Find out if you're at risk and need to schedule a screening.

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How can interventional pulmonology diagnose and treat lung cancer?

We use many types of bronchoscopy to see into the airways and treat lung cancer. Some interventional procedures allow doctors to take tissue samples (biopsies). Using other techniques, doctors can stop bleeding or open up airways that have become blocked.

Diagnostic bronchoscopy for lung cancer

Diagnostic bronchoscopy helps pulmonologists understand what is causing a person’s symptoms. To make a diagnosis, we may use:

  • Airway examination and bronchoalveolar lavage: Doctors can look into smaller and smaller sections of airways and collect samples of lung secretions. They may use a saline solution to wash samples from the farther airways where the bronchoscope can’t reach.
  • Cytologic brushing: Using a flexible brush passed through the bronchoscope, the doctor brushes loose cells from a tumor. Laboratory testing of the cells can help make a diagnosis.
  • Endobronchial biopsy: Using flexible forceps and viewing through the bronchoscope, the doctor takes a tissue sample for testing.
  • Transbronchial biopsy: When a tumor isn’t visible through a bronchoscope, the doctor can still take a sample. CT scans taken earlier can help locate the tumor. Doctors can use fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray that takes video of moving structures inside the body, to navigate to the tumor.

Advanced bronchoscopy for lung cancer diagnosis

Henry Ford offers interventional pulmonology techniques that aren’t available everywhere. Our team has experience diagnosing lung cancer using techniques including:

  • Autofluorescence bronchoscopy: A fluorescent light attached to the end of a bronchoscope makes healthy tissue look green and diseased tissue look red. The doctor can spot and take a sample of any abnormal tissue for further testing.
  • Electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB): ENB works like a GPS system in a car to provide 3-D virtual roadmaps of the lungs. It helps doctors locate tumors to take tissue samples. We use the superDimension™ Navigation System at Henry Ford.
  • Transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA): This procedure allows the doctor to take tissue samples from the lymph nodes in the lungs. Doctors can insert a small needle through a bronchoscope using CT scans of the chest as a guide.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and EBUS-TBNA: Ultrasound imaging uses sound waves to take pictures inside the body. Using a bronchoscope with an ultrasound probe at the end, doctors can locate and take samples of abnormal tissues. With EBUS-TBNA, ultrasound guides doctors to sample tissue through the airway walls using a needle. Henry Ford was involved with developing the equipment used in EBUS-TBNA. Our doctors have extensive experience with the technique.

Treating lung cancer with interventional pulmonology

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, your team of doctors will discuss your treatment options and expected outcomes. Henry Ford’s interventional pulmonology team works closely with medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other providers to recommend the best treatment for each individual. Minimally invasive interventional pulmonology treatments can help us determine a cancer’s stage (how far the cancer has progressed).

We can also use interventional pulmonology to remove tumors and affected lymph nodes. This process — called ablation — enables us to cut, burn, freeze or otherwise destroy tumors. By avoiding open surgery, we aim to help you heal faster and with less pain. Our treatments include: 

  • Argon plasma coagulation, which uses a stream of argon gas to destroy the surface of tumors or stop bleeding.
  • Cryotherapy, where we freeze and thaw targeted tissue repeatedly to destroy tumors or remove airway obstructions.
  • Electrocautery, which uses heat to destroy tumors, stop bleeding or resect (cut out) complete tumors.
  • Laser, an advanced tool used to destroy tumor tissue, coagulate the surface of tumors and cut through tissue.
  • Photodynamic therapy, which uses an injected agent activated with a specific laser to destroy tumor cells from within.
  • Stents, which are used to keep airways open when they are compressed or to close holes in airways. We use eight different types of stents, including silastic (silicone), metallic and a hybrid of the two.

Learn more about the services we offer in our Interventional Pulmonology Center and Bronchoscopy Suite.

Call our Interventional Pulmonology team at (313) 916-4406.

Connect with our Cancer Team 24/7

Call us at (888) 777-4167

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