"Not only can we now detect lung cancer at an early stage when it is curable, but with our multidisciplinary approach, our team can help patients modify their risk factors."
Lung cancer kills more people in the U.S. than any other cancer. Every day, Loma Linda University Health works to change that.
We offer our patients not only the most advanced screening, diagnostic and treatment techniques available, but also whole-person care. Our lung cancer care takes into account the mental, emotional and spiritual damage that comes with this diagnosis.
Cancers and Conditions We Treat
The Lung Cancer Program at Loma Linda University Health treats all types of lung cancer, including:
- Small cell lung cancer
- Non-small cell lung cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell lung cancer
- Metastatic lung tumors from other cancers
- Pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors
- Mediastinal tumors
- Rare tumors (like thymomas)
Why Choose Us for Lung Cancer Care
- We’re the only regional hospital with radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, thoracic surgeons, and interventional pulmonologists specializing in lung cancer care.
- Our lung cancer program includes integrated surgical services. You don’t have to go somewhere else to see your thoracic (chest) surgeon.
- Here, more than two dozen lung cancer specialists collaborate to forge a treatment pathway for your unique case. You get the right types of treatment at the right time.
- Our cancer research programs continually develop and refine innovative cancer treatments, including proton therapy and precision therapies.
- Our lung cancer program is unique in integrating in-house symptom management experts from the beginning of treatment, providing better comfort and outcomes.
- Our Transdisciplinary Tobacco Research Program provides foundational knowledge for lung cancer prevention and treatment through basic science research.
Treatment for Lung Cancer
The most important aspect of lung cancer treatment is efficient diagnosing and staging as well as timely treatment. Our Cancer Center has experts in multiple disciplines devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer in a multi-modal fashion. In other words, multiple advanced techniques are used to both diagnose and treat your lung cancer. This results in the best chance of survival. Treatment is much more effective when, for example, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery are combined — instead of just chemotherapy. Using these and other treatment types, a custom treatment plan is designed by an entire team of lung cancer specialists.
Loma Linda University Health also translates innovative lung cancer research into highly effective treatments on a regular basis. Our patients have access to the best treatment techniques, including the latest targeted therapies and immunotherapy.
Diagnostics and Imaging
Recently, a method for detecting lung cancer at an early stage was found to reduce cancer deaths by 20%. Loma Linda University Health uses this screening method to find lung cancer in high-risk individuals with a history of smoking. Schedule your lung cancer screening today.
This type of screening uses what’s known as low-dose computed tomography scanning (or LDCT). The scan is performed by an X-ray machine using small amounts of radiation, which allow us to create images of your lungs. We can then use the images to see if there are any issues that need a closer look.
If you have a long history of smoking, LDCT could be a good option for you. We can help you determine if you should start screening for lung cancer.
See answers to frequently asked questions about lung cancer screening.
One critical part of a complete diagnosis of any cancer is staging, where we determine how much the cancer has grown or spread. Accurate staging is one of the most important steps on your patient journey because it drives your treatment. Specialists will use advanced techniques to determine which of the five stages your cancer is in.
- Stage 0: There isn't any cancer, but there are cells present that could become cancer.
- Stage I: The cancer is contained to one area and hasn't grown very much.
- Stage II & III: The cancer has grown more and started affecting nearby tissues.
- Stage IV: The cancer has "metastasized" or spread to other parts of the body.
Patients who have correct staging get the best treatment available and have a better chance at beating their disease. At Loma Linda University Health, we devote a great deal of resources to providing our patients the most precise staging possible. Depending on the type of cancer, we use many different tools and techniques to assess your unique situation. Then, a group of specialists come together to discuss the results and find the best course for your treatment.
For lung cancer, staging is based on a combination of many techniques (known as staging modalities), including:
- Imaging, such as targeted imaging with PET and CT scans.
- Nonsurgical techniques, such as endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS).
- Surgery, such as lymph node dissection.
Using these techniques together increases the accuracy of your staging, which in turn leads to more effective treatment.
Every week, our team of lung cancer specialists comes together at something called a tumor board. During this meeting, specialists use the information gathered from staging modalities to determine the best treatments for our patients. Every case is given careful consideration as unique treatment plans are developed. Options for your treatment are shared with you so that you have a clear idea of what’s coming next.
Lymph Node Staging
Typically, lung cancer spreads to local lymph nodes in the middle of the chest first. Therefore, accurate lymph node staging is one of the most important issues in properly staging lung cancer.
Our team of interventional pulmonologists and thoracic surgeons use specialized equipment to simultaneously diagnose a nodule and biopsy the local lymph nodes. This reduces not only the number of procedures and the cost to you but, more importantly, the time to receive treatment.
Research shows that the average medical center does not typically perform lymph node staging for lung cancer. At Loma Linda University Health, staging local lymph nodes is done on a daily basis. Our accurate, minimally invasive technique has very few complications.
Loma Linda University Health researchers work every day to develop new medical cancer treatments that have less dramatic side effects. The development of targeted therapies and immunotherapy have revolutionized lung cancer treatment, especially in terms of patient comfort.
Certain cancer cells use specific molecules as they grow and spread throughout the body. Targeted therapy includes drugs that target these molecules in order to interfere with cancer’s ability to grow. Because these drugs target cancer specifically, they may provide better outcomes for our patients compared to standard chemotherapy.
As lung cancer mutates and moves throughout the body, it may become resistant to one drug and weak to another. Our weekly multidisciplinary team approach gives us the advantage to quickly test for these mutations and adapt treatment to a new targeted therapy drug. Because cancer has so many mutations, there are many targeted therapies available. New ones are being developed all the time by our cancer researchers.
Immunotherapy is a type of lung cancer treatment that uses the body’s natural immune system to fight the disease. Immunotherapy can help the immune system recognize cancer cells, slowing growth and possibly shrinking tumors.
Proton beam cancer treatment (proton therapy) is an advanced form of radiation therapy available. Because of its precision, higher doses of radiation can be delivered directly to the site of the tumor. This results in both superior treatment and minimal side effects. Less surrounding tissue is affected, keeping you safe and healthy and allowing you to quickly resume your daily routine.
Proton therapy is a notably effective treatment for lung cancer because it can be less damaging to surrounding tissues than other treatments. Other conditions like COPD are often present alongside lung cancer (called comorbid conditions), meaning the lungs are already weakened. The goal is to avoid damage as much as possible, as further damage could destroy lung function.
The Loma Linda University Medical Center was the first hospital in the world to offer proton therapy. For over 30 years we’ve researched and implemented proton therapy improvements that have helped cancer patients everywhere. Our researchers continue to develop better ways to treat cancer using proton therapy through our Cancer Particle Therapy Research Program.
Surgical removal of cancerous tissue is an effective treatment option in certain situations. Our thoracic surgeons are among the best in the world and offer advanced surgical techniques for lung cancer treatment. As with other lung cancer treatments, surgery is one of many approaches considered for multi-modal treatment.
Robotic surgery is a special type of thoracic surgery performed by a physician using robotic-controlled surgical instruments. A small video camera guides the surgeon as they perform the extremely precise procedure. Robotic-assisted lung cancer surgery offers the least invasive surgical procedures available, allowing for quicker recovery times.
Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is performed by a physician using specialized instruments inserted into the chest through small incisions. This type of surgery also uses a small video camera to guide the surgeon.
Loma Linda University Health is committed to significantly reducing deaths from lung cancer. We conduct innovative research into lung cancer prevention and treatment through various programs:
- Lung cancer clinical trials
- Multidisciplinary Tobacco Cessation Research Program
- Wholeness and Cancer Immunotherapy Research Program
- Cancer Population Sciences Research Program
- Particle Therapy Research Program
- Molecular Imaging and Therapeutics Research Program
Since we believe that true wellness involves more than healing your body, we focus on more than your cancer. Your care team will support you and your family every step of the way — whether that means explaining your diagnosis and treatment options, helping you coordinate appointments, providing resources for your family or simply holding your hand. This is a journey and we’re a team.
Some of your support services include:
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Neuropathy clinic for patients who undergo chemotherapy
- A dedicated nurse navigator and intake coordinator to answer all of your questions and concerns from diagnosis through treatment
- Integrated dietitians to help you manage the gastrointestinal side effects of cancer treatment
- Pastoral care
- Patient education
- Psychosocial care
- Support groups
- Symptom management experts who focus on helping you through your cancer treatment and the side effects you may experience
It can be difficult for cancer survivors to keep fighting cancer in mind after all they’ve been through. Unfortunately, though, cancer survivors are at higher risk of developing the same type or new types of cancers. Our survivorship care plan (SCP) helps keep you up-to-date with care long after your cancer is gone. The SCP identifies the types of follow-ups, studies and screening programs that need to continue long after surviving cancer.
We provide the SCP to your primary care physician as a long-term roadmap for your health. The SCP becomes a standard part of your care so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting a check-up.
Loma Linda University Health takes a unique approach to symptom management. Research has shown that early referral to symptom management experts actually provides a higher survival rate for cancer. In addition, our commitment to whole person care means helping patients feel better in every possible way. Because of this, symptom management experts are part of your care team from the very beginning of your cancer treatment. These experts are physicians with board certification in symptom management and represent a critical part of your cancer care team.
Our symptom management experts (SMEs) are fully integrated with other cancer specialists. Our SMEs work next door to our oncologists and help guide treatment as part of all of our tumor boards. You aren’t referred out to another office — your entire cancer care team is under one roof. The same care team stays with you through your journey, no matter the outcome.
A Word from Our Leader
MD, PhD, Director of the Cancer Center
“Over the years, I’ve been amazed at the ability of my patients to not only overcome cancer, but to thrive. That’s something that inspires and motivates me as a person who takes care of cancer patients every day.”Profile