Lung Cancer

Minimally invasive or noninvasive options to destroy cancer cells and help you breathe easier.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. While the types of lung cancer vary, every lung cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and frightening. At Henry Ford Cancer Institute, we provide compassionate, expert care. We’ll guide you and your family through the process, including diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care as a survivor.

Managing any cancer, and particularly lung cancer, is a team effort. Henry Ford brings together doctors from different departments who work very closely together. Our multidisciplinary team includes:

  • Surgeons who perform complex airway and lung surgeries. We offer robot-assisted and minimally invasive procedures, to save as much healthy lung tissue as possible.
  • Interventional pulmonologists who use the most advanced technologies to diagnose disease. We also can remove tumors from airways and treat other complications
  • Radiation oncologists who have set the national standards for techniques of noninvasive precision radiation treatments, and teach these techniques to others.
  • Medical oncologists who offer standard treatments as well as Phase 1, 2 and 3 clinical trials for the most complicated disease.
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If you were diagnosed with lung cancer we may have a clinical trial for you.

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  • What are the different types of lung cancer?

    Cancer is an abnormal process in the body where clusters of atypical cells begin to multiply out of control. The type of cell where the abnormal changes originate dictates the type of cancer. Lung tumors are made up of clusters of cancerous, or abnormal, cells. As these cells multiply, they can affect the way your lungs work and how well you breathe.

    A cancer that begins in one organ may eventually affect other organs. Cancer cells can travel from the original tumor to other parts of the body, carried in blood or lymph, a fluid found in the lungs. This process is called metastasis.

    Treatment options depend on the type of lung cancer and whether it has spread. Lung cancer is separated into two main categories:

    • Non-small-cell: About 85 percent of all lung cancers are non-small-cell. This group includes squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and neuroendocrine tumors.
    • Small-cell: This type of cancer can grow quickly.

    Other types of cancers can spread to the lungs. The proper diagnosis and staging is our highest priority at Henry Ford. We work aggressively with all patients, from diagnosis to treatment, to treat cancer accurately and quickly.

  • Am I at risk for lung cancer?

    Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer. If you do smoke or have smoked, you may be a candidate for lung cancer screening.

    Unfortunately, you may not notice any signs of lung cancer until the disease is advanced. Some symptoms may include:

    • Coughing up blood
    • Persistent cough that won’t go away
    • Shortness of breath
    • Unexplained weight loss
  • How do doctors diagnose lung cancer?

    If doctors suspect lung cancer, they may order one or more of the following diagnostic tests:

    • Imaging tests: These tests take pictures of the inside of the body. Doctors may use chest X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans or bone scans to help find cancer. Imaging test results also guide your doctors’ treatment decisions, based on how the cancer is changing.
    • Biopsy: To diagnose cancer, we must perform a biopsy — sending a tissue sample from your lung for further testing. If something in the lung looks suspicious, the doctor may recommend this test. Many minimally invasive methods for sampling tissue are quick and painless, including bronchoscopy and interventional pulmonology.

Lung cancer treatment at Henry Ford Cancer Institute

Our thoracic cancer team, along with specialists from the Henry Ford Center for Lung Health, cares for more than 500 lung cancer patients every year. That expertise means you can be confident that you’re receiving the latest, proven treatments.

A team of specialists discusses each patient’s individual case. Then we develop a treatment plan specific to your health, your needs and your priorities. Your treatment for lung cancer may include:

  • Interventional pulmonology: We have the only comprehensive bronchoscopy and interventional pulmonology program in Michigan. A bronchoscope is a fiber-optic tool that lets doctors see into your airways to diagnose or treat lung conditions. Using this tool, our doctors perform advanced interventional procedures to remove tumors or widen airways, even deep within the lung’s tiny passageways. Learn more about Henry Ford’s Interventional Pulmonology Center and Bronchoscopy Suite.
  • Targeted therapy: Henry Ford’s Precision Medicine program enables us to routinely test patients who have advanced lung adenocarcinoma with next-generation sequencing (NGS) and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). We can detect genetic mutations that make certain types of cancer potential targets for innovative new cancer drugs, called targeted therapies.
  • Immunotherapy: In 2015, the FDA approved the first two immunotherapy drugs, nivolumab (Opdivo®) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda®), for cancer. These drugs offer a valuable new class of medications to treat lung cancer. Henry Ford’s medical oncologists contributed to developing these new medications. We’re also engaged in the early development of a new treatment called adoptive immunotherapy that uses genetically modified human lymphocytes (immune cells) to fight cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy remains an important therapeutic option for advanced lung cancer. We’ll assess the best treatment options for you and coordinate your care before or after surgery. When surgery is not an option, we sometimes use chemotherapy as part of combined therapy, along with radiation.
  • Clinical trials: We operate one of Michigan’s most active lung cancer clinical trials programs. Our robust portfolio of clinical trials is exploring many new therapies, from Phase 1 to Phase 3 trials.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy kills cancer cells noninvasively by destroying their DNA (the cell’s control center) with radiation. At Henry Ford, we have been involved in developing the safest and most advanced treatments in radiation therapy. These techniques allow us to precisely target tumor cells and spare healthy cells anywhere in the body. Our cancer team uses the world’s first FDA-approved combined MRI and linear accelerator (ViewRay MRIdian® Linac), which can track lung tumors noninvasively using real-time MRI imaging. We also pioneered the first Edge® dedicated stereotactic (focused) radiation unit in North America. Henry Ford trained more than 200 doctors from around the world in using this treatment, so you can be confident in our expertise.
  • Lung cancer surgery: We perform a full range of options for lung cancer surgery. Whenever possible, we use a minimally invasive approach. The smaller incision means you may have less pain and a faster recovery.
  • Ablation techniques: Ablation is a procedure that cuts, burns, freezes, clots or destroys tumors. These treatments destroy cancer cells, stop bleeding and help you breathe better. We use minimally invasive ablation, which means you won’t have an open surgical incision.

Therapeutic techniques to ease lung cancer symptoms

Lung cancer can lead to problems with your breathing. It can block the airways or cause fluid buildup in the chest, which can result in collapsing all or part of your lung. We may be able to help, with treatments that can relieve symptoms and allow you to breathe easier. These procedures include:

  • Airway management: We can perform operations without incisions. Instead, we access your lungs through your mouth to clear your airways. We use a variety of lasers and other tools to remove tumors (or other blockages) from the airways, control areas that are bleeding or repair injury to the airways from the cancer or treatments.
  • Airway stenting: In addition to other airway management techniques, we also use airway stents. Stents are hollow tubes made of a variety of materials. They are used to open, or keep open, airways that were closed.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): Along with brachytherapy, a local form of radiation therapy, our interventional team uses PDT to treat airways disease. PDT uses laser light along with a special drug to kill cancer cells without surgery. Learn more about photodynamic therapy.

Find out about lung cancer screening

Screening and early detection make a big difference in how effectively doctors can treat lung cancer.

People between 55 and 77 years old who are current or former tobacco smokers may be eligible to participate in a no-cost screening program. Screenings are covered by most insurance plans, with no copay or out-of-pocket expense to you. Learn more about the Lung Cancer Screening clinic.

Connect with our Cancer Team 24/7

Call us at (888) 777-4167