Thoracic Oncology Program

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Moffitt Cancer Center's Thoracic Oncology Program has the expertise to diagnosis and treat early-stage and late­‐stage lung cancer and other thoracic cancers.

Treatment depends on a number of factors, including the type of lung cancer (non-small or small cell lung cancer), the size, location and extent of the tumor, and the general health of the patient. Many different treatments and combinations of treatments may be used to control lung cancer and/or to improve quality of life by reducing symptoms.

Surgery is an operation to remove the cancer. The type of surgery a doctor performs depends on the location of the tumor in the lung. An operation to remove only a small part of the lung is called a segmental or wedge resection. When the surgeon removes an entire lobe of the lung, the procedure is called a lobectomy. Pneumonectomy is the removal of an entire lung. Some tumors are inoperable (cannot be removed by surgery) because of the size or location, and some patients cannot have surgery for other medical reasons.

Treatment Options:

  • Minimally invasive techniques, including esophagectomies
  • Robotic Thoracic Surgery – Surgeons in the Thoracic Oncology Program are using robotic surgery for the treatment of lung cancer. Robotic surgery may decrease the discomfort of lung cancer surgery and decrease the length of the hospital stay following surgery.

Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Even after cancer has been removed from the lung, cancer cells may still be present in nearby tissue or elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy may be used to control cancer growth or to relieve symptoms. Most anticancer drugs are given by injection directly into a vein (IV) or by means of a catheter, a thin tube that is placed into a large vein and remains there as long as it is needed. Some anticancer drugs are given in the form of a pill.

Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves the use of high­‐energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is directed to a limited area and affects the cancer cells only in that area. Radiation therapy may be used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that remain in the treated area. Doctors also use radiation therapy, often combined with chemotherapy, as primary treatment instead of surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath. Radiation for the treatment of lung cancer most often comes from a machine (external radiation). The radiation can also come from an implant (a small container of radioactive material) placed directly into or near the tumor (internal radiation).

  • Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) –  A single large radiation treatment. The radiation beams are aimed with high precision because of the very high doses involved.
  • Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT) – Uses IGRT to guide relatively high radiation doses, though lower than those used in SRS. Typically, 2 to 5 treatments are needed over a week or so.
  • Brachytherapy – Places radioactive sources, meshing, near a tumor. With this technique, the tumor receives relatively high radiation doses while healthy tissue is protected. It can be used only on tumors that can be easily assessable or during surgery.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT), a type of light activation therapy, involves the use of a special chemical that is injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body. The chemical rapidly leaves normal cells but remains in cancer cells for a longer time. A light aimed at the cancer activates the chemical, which then kills the cancer cells that have absorbed it. Photodynamic therapy may be used to reduce symptoms of lung cancer – for example, to control bleeding or to relieve breathing problems due to blocked airways when the cancer cannot be removed through surgery. Photodynamic therapy may also be used to treat very small tumors in patients for whom the usual treatments for lung cancer are not appropriate.

Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) uses high-energy radio waves for treatment. A thin, needle­‐like probe temporarily placed into the tumor releases these radio waves. Placement of the probe is accurately guided by ultrasound or CT scans. The probe releases high frequency alternating current that creates frictional heating and destroys the cancer cells.

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