Our team approach to cancer diagnosis, treatment plan and follow-up, ensures options tailored to your condition.

Cancer Care Center

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Lung Cancer Patient Care at Boston Medical Center


At Boston Medical Center (BMC), the care of patients with lung cancer is a collaborative, multidisciplinary process. Organizing our services around each patient, we bring together the expertise of diverse specialists and manage your care from your first consultation and diagnosis through treatment and follow-up visits. We guide you throughout the entire process and provide all these services in one location.

In our highly supportive and collaborative environment, experts in lung cancer and related lung diseases provide you with the most advanced, coordinated and comprehensive medical care available anywhere – treatment that is effective and innovative in curing and controlling cancer and managing its impact on your quality of life.

At BMC, diagnosis and treatment of patients with lung cancer combines the resources of a multidisciplinary clinical center dedicated to personal, patient-focused care with the state-of-the-art expertise and technological advances of a major teaching hospital. As the primary teaching affiliate of the Boston University School of Medicine, BMC is at the forefront of clinical practice, clinical trials, surgical expertise and research in lung cancer.

Lung cancer is highly treatable and often curable, even when a patient has severely damaged lungs and advanced disease. In our culture of innovation, collaboration and compassionate care, you will receive treatment from physicians who are nationally recognized leaders in the care of patients with all stages of lung cancer.

Our doctors are pioneering advances in effective, minimally invasive techniques that lower patients’ risk, pain and recovery time and enable even very ill patients to improve their quality of life.

Refer a patient with a single telephone call or e-mail to our Cancer Referral Hotline. Patients with a diagnosis or strong suspicion of cancer are given priority appointments within 72 hours. Call 617.638.5600 for a clinical consult or email CTO.Center@BMC.org.

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What is lung cancer?

Normal cells, the body's basic unit of life, divide in a regulated way to form new cells, and after performing their functions for a while, they die. However, cancer cells do not always die. Instead, these abnormal cells may multiply in an uncontrolled way and grow into a tumor.   

Lung cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs. As these unhealthy cells form lumps or swellings (tumors), they block the ability of the lungs to provide oxygen throughout the body via the bloodstream. They may remain localized or they may spread (metastasize) and invade other organs.

Lung cancers take a variety of forms, including:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma), which begins in the tissues that line the lungs and is most common in smokers.
  • Adenocarcinoma, a tumor that starts in the cells lining the glands.
  • Bronchoalveolar carcinoma, a form of adenocarcinoma that affects more women and nonsmokers than other types of lung cancer.
  • Mesothelioma – a rare lung cancer associated with exposure to asbestos and smoking.

Resources for more information:

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What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

In the earliest stages of lung cancer, a patient may not experience symptoms. However, as the condition advances, a patient may notice:

  • A new cough that does not go away
  • Changes in a chronic cough
  • Coughing up blood (even a small amount)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Pain

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What causes lung cancer?

People who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer. The risk rises with the frequency and duration of an individual’s exposure to tobacco—whether through smoking or by second-hand contact. However, people who stop smoking, even after many years, can significantly reduce their chances of developing lung cancer.

Tobacco smoke causes the majority of lung cancer cases by damaging the cells that line the lungs. Cigarette smoke contains cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) that alter lung tissue. The damage worsens with repeated exposure. Over time, the injured cells become abnormal, multiply and form tumors. 

Other factors that increase risk of lung cancer include:

  • Inhaling secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Breathing in asbestos and other chemicals
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • A history of certain other lung diseases
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • A combination of the above

Lung cancer can also afflict nonsmokers and people who have never had prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke.

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How is lung cancer diagnosed?

From your first visit to BMC, you will receive highly coordinated, multidisciplinary care that is managed by a BMC thoracic surgeon, a doctor who specializes in treating conditions of the lungs, chest wall and diaphragm.

Your BMC care team works together to determine your diagnosis. 

In collaboration with other specialists, your BMC physician will likely order a number of diagnostic tests and review the results at our weekly multidisciplinary Thoracic Tumor Board meeting. This inter-departmental review process guides our recommendations for treatment. In consultation with you and your primary care physician, we plan the best course of treatment for you based on the type and extent of your cancer and your overall health.

If you have a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of lung cancer, your physicians will use a variety of diagnostic procedures to stage the disease and to determine its severity and spread. Your doctor may request several tests and diagnostic procedures. Learn more about the tests and diagnostic procedures for lung cancer.

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How is lung cancer treated?

At BMC, specialists from medical oncology, radiation oncology, thoracic and cardiothoracic surgery, pulmonology, radiology and other medical disciplines combine their expertise to provide you with an integrated, individualized treatment plan.

Your plan may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments. You may be offered the opportunity to participate in clinical trials if an investigational lung cancer therapy is appropriate for you.

With their depth and range of expertise, our specialists apply a wide array of state-of-the-art techniques to cure patients by removing and killing cancerous tissue. Our surgeons also use the most advanced techniques to relieve the symptoms of patients with advanced disease so they may improve their quality of life. Learn more about the treatments available for lung cancer.

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Our Team

BMC’s comprehensive lung cancer program has earned an international reputation with physicians who are distinguished as national leaders, researchers and experts in care of patients at all stages of the lung disease. Our patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach assures each patient benefits from the collaborative expertise of physicians uniquely focused on their individual needs. Meet our team.

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Cancer Clinical Trials

Promising new techniques in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with cancer are tested in research studies called clinical trials. Patients who may benefit from a new practice or drug may be invited by their doctor to take part in appropriate clinical trials. 

BMC thoracic surgeons lead or take part in a number of national studies advancing new treatments for patients with all stages of lung cancer. These trials include minimally invasive surgical techniques for stage I lung cancer; novel usage of radioactive seeds and radiofrequency ablation to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence in high-risk cases; and a stage III study that combines high-dosage radiation with chemotherapy. 

Follow this link to view ongoing clinical trials and other clinical and basic science research at BMC related to lung cancer. (http://www.bumc.bu.edu/clinicaltrials/home/lung/)

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Cancer Survivorship Program

A diagnosis of cancer can be a life-altering experience. The BMC Cancer Support Services Program provides a comprehensive set of services to help patients focus their energy on combating and coping with their disease. Designed to improve long-term outcomes and survivorship, these services address a range of medical, social, economic and emotional needs.

At BMC, we understand that cancer affects patients and families in many ways. We are here to support you during all aspects of care—from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. We offer a comprehensive array of support groups, workshops, lectures and activities designed with you in mind.

The Lung Cancer Support Group meets monthly in the Moakley building. The schedule and location can be found on our Cancer Support Newsletter - see link under, Learn More, Downloads (PDF) in the next column.

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Call: 800.682.2862

Boston Medical Center
Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

Learn More

Quick Links

Directions to BMC
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Downloads (PDF)

BMC Campus Map
What Makes BMC Special
Cancer Program Annual Report 
Cancer Support Services Newsletter and Calendar 

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