Center for Thoracic Oncology
Boston Medical Center (BMC) specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. We combine a highly skilled, multidisciplinary team and state-of-the-art facilities to offer a comprehensive course of treatments for lung cancer, including open surgery and laser-assisted therapy, and we are one of only two institutions in Boston that can offer Cyberknife radiosurgery.
As proud as we are of our medical techniques and equipment, however, it is our patient-centered care approach we are most proud of. Every member of our team knows that a cancer diagnosis is a serious matter that has profound effects on you and your family, which is why we take special care to fully discuss your condition, your treatment options, and prognosis fully, honestly, and with the respect and compassion you and your family deserve.
Watch this brief video with Benedict Daly, MD, Professor Emeritus, as he discusses our state-of-the-art lung cancer program, a national model of treatment and care.
What is Lung Cancer?
Your lungs are the organs responsible for delivering oxygen from the air you breathe to your blood and eliminating carbon dioxide. You have two lungs, which are divided into lobes. Your right lung has three lobes, upper, middle, and lower. Because the heart is located on the left side of your body, your left lung has only two lobes, upper and lower, to accommodate your heart.
Normal, healthy cells grow and divide to form new cells as your body needs them. They die when they grow old or become damaged, and they are replaced with new cells. Sometimes, new cells form when your body does not need them, and old or damaged cells do not die when they should. The buildup of extra cells often forms a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. Tumor cells can be malignant, meaning cancerous, or benign, meaning non-cancerous.
Lung cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the lungs. About 180,000 cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States. There are different types of lung cancers based on the types of cells from which the cancer begins. Your physician determines the type of cancer by examining the cells under a microscope.
The two main types of lung cancer are:
- Small cell
- Non-small cell
There are several types of non-small cell lung cancers, including:
- Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma), which is a form of cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are in the lining of the lungs.
- Adenocarcinoma, which begins in cells that have glandular properties.
- Bronchoalveolar carcinoma, a form of adenocarcinoma, which may be spread more throughout the lungs than other cancers, and is more common in women and people who do not smoke than other forms of lung cancer.
- Large cell carcinoma, a type of lung cancer in which the cancer cells are large and look abnormal.
What are the Symptoms?
In its earliest stages, you may not experience symptoms from lung cancer. As the condition advances, however, you may develop symptoms that include:
- A new cough that does not go away
- Changes in a chronic cough
- Coughing up blood (even a small amount)
- Shortness of breath
What Causes Lung Cancer?
Smoking causes the majority of lung cancer cases by damaging the cells that line your lungs. There are a number of factors that increase your risk for lung cancer, including:
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exposure to radon gas
- Exposure to asbestos and other chemicals
- Family history
- Excessive alcohol use