It’s often a pulmonologist or lung specialist who makes the initial lung cancer diagnosis by evaluating symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, and analyzing a subsequent lung biopsy. The next step is typically a meeting with a medical oncologist and/or several other specialists–including a thoracic surgeon and a radiation oncologist–to determine the stage and extent of the cancer. This important process may include scans of the chest, abdomen, pelvis and brain to see if the cancer has started to spread outside of the lung. The results will guide treatment decisions.
If the cancer is local–meaning just in the lungs–surgery may be an option. But if it has spread to the lymph nodes, medical therapy such as chemotherapy, targeted drugs and/or radiation can be as effective as surgery. However, if the cancer has spread outside of the lungs, chemotherapy and/or targeted drugs are used to control the cancer’s growth as much as possible.
After a lung cancer diagnosis, you will need to discuss a few things with your doctor–such as the stage of the disease, the treatment options and how long you have to consider these options.