Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in the world. But, like many other forms of cancer, if it is detected early enough it can be treated so patients enjoy longer and higher-quality lives. 

Today, we are finding more lung cancers earlier, at more treatable stages. The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute lung cancer team adopts medical technologies and therapies available only in leading cancer centers in the U.S. 

And through our membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, lung cancer patients have direct access to cutting-edge screening, treatment and clinical trials.


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Meet Our Team


Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can produce these symptoms:

  • A cough that won’t go away, or a so-called “smoker’s cough” that sounds raspy
  • Coughs that produce blood or rust-colored phlegm
  • Hoarseness, trouble breathing or noisy breathing
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Chest pain that gets worse when you cough or breathe deeply
  • Fatigue
  • Repeat bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia

Screening for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer, the most common cancer in the world, takes more than 2.5 times as many lives in Connecticut each year as breast or colon cancers.

The Cancer Institute offers non-invasive screenings for anyone deemed high risk for developing lung cancer. Tests are done by referral only. To be eligible for screening, you must have a smoking history of one-pack-a-day or more for 20 years, be between the age of 50 and 80, in good health with no lung cancer symptoms. If you’re interested, talk to your primary care provider.


Diagnosing Lung Cancer

The two main types of lung cancer:

  • Non-small cell, which makes up 90 percent of lung cancer cases and is typically caused by smoking.
  • Small cell, which is rare among nonsmokers but a fast-growing cancer that typically starts in the bronchi at the center of the chest.

Non-small cell lung cancers are named for the kinds of cells found in them and how they look under a microscope, such as:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in thin, flat squamous cells. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
  • Large cell carcinoma may begin in several types of large cells.
  • Adenocarcinoma or cancer that begins in cells lining the alveoli where mucus is made.
  • Pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, unclassified carcinoma and other types.

If lung cancer is suspected, we perform a biopsy.

We offer several types of biopsies, including:

  • CT guided biopsy: A thin needle removes tissue or fluid from the lung using a CT machine for precise guidance.
  • Bronchoscopy:  A device called a bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs to look at the lungs and, if needed, remove tissue samples.
  • Surgical biopsies: A scope provides a look inside the lung and also removes tissue or lymph node samples.
  • Lymph node biopsy.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS): A faster, more accurate way to find and diagnose even the most hard-to-reach tumors. The technique spares patients from general anesthesia and incisions by passing a thread-like device, guided by ultrasound, into the trachea to take images of tumors and biopsy lymph nodes. Our pathologists evaluate the biopsies immediately and patients usually go home soon after the procedure.
  • Super-dimension navigational bronchoscopy: GPS technology is used to pinpoint even the smallest tumors deep in the lung. Without this technology, these tumors would likely remain unreachable.
  • Robotic bronchoscopy allows for precise navigation to challenging to reach areas within the lung.

Treating Lung Cancer

Fewer than half of lung cancer patients in the U.S. have access to the minimally invasive techniques available at the Cancer Institute. These treatments ensure that our patients are more comfortable, recover faster and stay fewer days in the hospital.

  • Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) allows for precise focused radiation to lung cancers and allows successful treatment without need for surgery.
  • Robotic and video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) allows for a minimally invasive approach to surgical care with a lower risk of complications and a shorter recovery.
  • Although traditional chemotherapy is still a backbone to the treatment of advanced lung cancers, the Cancer Institute uses advanced technology such as immunotherapy which utilizes the immune system to fight the cancer.
  • Lung cancers are also screened using a specialized molecular panel to detect any “weak spots” in the cancer that can be treated using advanced targeted therapies. Many of these newer targeted therapies are oral medications without traditional chemotherapy side effects.
  • In many situations, clinical trials are also available to examine new and exciting approaches to lung cancer therapy.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance

We offer the latest treatments through our ongoing membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Alliance, which gives you access to the latest standards of care and clinical trials.

The MSK Alliance

Support at the Cancer Institute

The Cancer Institute offers whatever you and your family need on your journey, whether it’s access to an oncology social worker, a nurse navigator to coordinate your care or the support of our Patient and Family Resource Center.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute