Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the few diseases on the rise in the United States. In Connecticut, it takes almost twice as many lives each year as breast and colon cancer combined.

Meet Our Thoracic & Lung Cancer Specialists 

The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute is pioneering medical technologies and therapies that are hard to find anywhere else – across the nation or even worldwide. Through our alliance with Memorial Sloan Kettering – among the country’s premier cancer centers – we give thoracic and lung cancer patients direct access to cutting-edge screening, treatments and clinical trials.

Our goal is to extend and improve quality of life. We’re finding more lung cancers earlier, at more treatable stages.

Patients are more comfortable, recover faster and need shorter hospital stays with minimally invasive techniques like endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and robotic and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). Less than half of lung cancer patients in the U.S. have access to some of these advanced techniques.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell and small cell.

Smoking is the major risk factor for non-small cell lung cancers. Non-small cell lung cancers are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
  • Large cell carcinoma: Cancer that may begin in several types of large cells.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in the cells that line the alveoli and make substances such as mucus.
Other kinds of non-small cell lung cancers:
  • Pleomorphic.
  • Carcinoid tumor.
  • Salivary gland carcinoma.
  • Unclassified carcinoma.

Up to 90 percent of lung cancer cases are non-small.

Small cell lung cancer, rare among nonsmokers, is a fast-growing cancer that typically starts in the bronchi at the center of the chest and can spread in its early stages.

Treatments for Lung Cancer

Personalized Therapy

Our specialists are advancing personalized treatments with fast-tracked “next-generation sequencing.” By identifying the specific genetic defects in each tumor, we select precisely targeted drugs to fight lung cancer. These personalized approaches can help improve the impact of therapy on the cancer while minimizing the toxicity of therapy. We can evaluate, on site, a 50-gene panel to help select therapy. More than 400 more genes can be compared through a larger trial with Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Clinical Trials

Our alliance with Memorial Sloan Kettering has allowed us to greatly expand the clinical trial offering available for lung cancer patients. Our goal is to allow patients access to cutting-edge trials at any point during their therapy.

Pioneering Medical Technologies

Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS) is a faster and far more accurate way to find and diagnose even hard-to-reach tumors. EBUS spares lung cancer patients from general anesthesia and any need for incisions, passing a thread-like ultrasound-guided device through the trachea to image tumors and biopsy lymph nodes. Pathologists can evaluate the biopsies immediately. Patients can usually go home right after the EBUS procedure.

The Cancer Institute is also a leader in robotic and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), as well as brachytherapy that places radiation seeds directly into tumors. Some smaller lung cancer tumors can be treated in as few as five days with high-dose Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT). With this specialized technology, our Radiation Oncologists can deliver high doses of localized radiation with extreme precision. It’s an alternative to weeks of traditional radiation therapy for qualifying tumors.

We even have advanced devices that use GPS technology to pinpoint the smallest of tumors deep in the lung. Without this super-dimension navigational bronchoscopy, they would be unreachable.

Individualized Care Designed by Multidisciplinary Specialists

We navigate to the right oncologist faster. We use the latest technologies to detect even the smallest tumors. And we bring resources from our vast Hartford HealthCare system to each patient’s bedside. That’s how we became a major referral center for patients with lung cancer and other chest tumors.

Each patient’s best course of treatment is designed by a team of pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists with unmatched expertise. Specialized experts from across every discipline at the Cancer Institute join forces against lung cancer cases. More answers, insights and treatment options are available through the Memorial Sloan Kettering Alliance. You get the most advanced cancer treatment available anywhere, with the added comfort of staying close to home.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is most commonly a lifestyle disease related to smoking. Being exposed to secondhand smoke, arsenic, asbestos, radioactive dust or radon can increase your chances of getting lung cancer. If you are exposed to radiation at work or elsewhere, you have a higher chance of getting lung cancer. When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of lung cancer increases.

How Lung Cancer is Diagnosed

Lung cancer is usually first found through a chest X-ray or a CT scan. More tests are then needed to identify what kind of cancer cells you have and whether they have spread beyond your lung. These tests help determine cancer’s stage, its size and how far it has spread.

Lung Cancer Screenings

The Cancer Institute is shifting diagnosis to cancer’s earlier stages with new low-dose CT scan screening.

We help primary care physicians and pulmonologists across central Connecticut to qualify patients for low-dose CT scan screening tests. Patients must have a history of heavy smoking (averaging one pack a day or more over 30 years), be between the ages of 55 and 77, generally healthy and have no lung-cancer symptoms.

Meet our Thoracic and Lung Cancer Specialists:

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute