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Lung Cancer

The lung cancer specialists at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center provide you with advanced, effective care tailored to your individual needs. We offer the full spectrum of care, including lung screenings, second opinion consultations and advanced treatment options.

Vanderbilt-Ingram is at the forefront of lung cancer research. We are leading the way in sophisticated diagnostic and treatment techniques that pinpoint the tumor while sparing healthy tissue.

Lung Cancer: Why Choose Vanderbilt-Ingram

At Vanderbilt-Ingram, you will find:

  • Lung cancer experts: Our cancer specialists are passionate about getting you the right treatment. As a specialized cancer center, we practice advanced therapies including robotic surgery, DNA-driven therapy, precise radiation therapy and other treatments still in the clinical trial phase. We often see patients seeking a second opinion on their diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Personalized medicine: Our commitment to personalizing medicine goes beyond customizing a treatment plan for you. We analyze the genetic changes in the tumor to determine the best way to treat you. 
  • Advanced diagnostics: Our goal is to provide you with the most precise diagnosis, using minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. We use an advanced technique called endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) to collect samples from lungs and lymph nodes without invasive surgery.
  • Minimally invasive surgery: These less-invasive surgical options use smaller incisions and may include robotic surgical systems and real-time videos. The goal is a more precise surgery and a faster, easier recovery.
  • Patient navigators: We want you to focus on getting better, not on the work of making appointments. Our patient navigator program helps lift the burden of scheduling and paperwork. Your patient navigator can assist with gathering medical records, scheduling consultations, evaluating your case and discussing your treatment options.
  • Tumor boards: At our regular tumor boards (cancer care meetings), our cancer experts discuss complex cases individually. Together, some of the nation’s leading cancer experts across medical disciplines collaborate on choosing a treatment plan.

Types of Lung Cancer We Treat

We treat all types of lung cancers, including:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Malignant mesothelioma
  • Thymoma and thymic carcinoma

Lung Cancer Screening and Prevention

Treatment for lung cancer is more successful when it’s caught early. If you are a smoker or ex-smoker, your risk of lung cancer increases dramatically. Talk to your doctor about whether you should begin regular lung cancer screenings. Learn more about Vanderbilt's comprehensive Lung Screening Program.

Seeking the care of an expert lung cancer specialist is especially important if you are considered a high-risk individual. High-risk individuals are:

  • People between the ages of 55 and 80
  • Smokers or ex-smokers with:
    • At least 30 years of smoking history of a pack of cigarettes per day
    • 15 years of smoking 2 packs per day and who have quit fewer than 15 years ago

If you are a smoker or ex-smoker between the ages of 55 and 80, you may be eligible for our lung cancer screening trial.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis

To diagnose lung cancer, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will also perform a physical exam. Be sure to share all the details of your symptoms with our team so we can help shape your diagnosis.

Diagnostic tests include:

  • Imaging scans: These are generally painless, noninvasive tests that provide images of your lungs and surrounding structures. Scans include:
    • Computed tomography (CT): Takes a series of X-ray images from different angles
    • Magnetic resonance image (MRI): Uses powerful magnet technology to create detailed images
    • Positron emission tomography (PET): Uses a small, safe amount of a radioactive substance (a tracer) that highlights any abnormalities in the body
  • Biopsy: To confirm lung cancer, we may remove a small sample of lung tissue to analyze it under a microscope. We give you an anesthetic before the procedure to minimize any pain or discomfort. A biopsy provides your care team with accurate information to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.
    • EBUS: Vanderbilt-Ingram is one of the few facilities equipped with EBUS, a minimally invasive procedure to remove the tissue and fluid sample. EBUS allows us to access difficult-to-reach areas of the lungs and is a faster, more precise biopsy method that results in an easier recovery.

Treating Lung Cancer

We provide the full spectrum of lung cancer treatments:

  • Surgery: Our team cares for a broad range of diseases affecting the chest. We use advanced robotic and video-assisted technology to perform less-invasive, lung-sparing surgery, so your recovery is quicker and easier. Our lung surgeons are ranked among the top 10 university hospitals nationwide for lowest mortality and post-surgery readmissions, according to the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC). 
  • Interventional pulmonology: This method of treatment uses minimally invasive therapies instead of traditional surgical procedures. Using a thin, flexible tube, we access the lungs to pinpoint the areas of concern and deliver treatment. 
    • EBUS: This diagnostic technique is a key part of your treatment plan, as it helps doctors get the most precise diagnosis and tailor your treatment.
    • Pleural catheter: The pleural space is a fluid-filled part of the lung. Tumors spreading into this space can cause a fluid buildup. Traditionally, every time fluid would build up, patients needed to undergo a procedure to insert a chest tube and drain the fluid. The pleural catheter is a more comfortable treatment option. We place a thin tube in the chest during a minor procedure. It stays in place and drains fluid as necessary. The catheter does not limit normal movement.
  • Chemotherapy: This treatment method uses powerful drugs to destroy the cancer cells. We offer chemotherapy services at multiple locations throughout the Greater Nashville area, so you can choose treatment at the location closest to you. 
  • Immunotherapy: This treatment method uses your own immune system to fight the cancer. 
  • Precision medicine: Our team uses the genetic changes in the tumor to plan a precise treatment plan. 
  • Radiation therapy: We use advanced radiation technology such as stereotactic radiosurgery to treat tumors with exceptional precision. These treatments target only the tumor and not the surrounding healthy tissue, leading to shorter treatment times and fewer side effects. 
  • Clinical trials: These studies give you access to the newest promising approaches before they are widely available. 
  • Cutting-edge research: Our physicians and scientists are constantly striving to develop new therapies for lung cancer through laboratory-based research. Our research program ranks within the top 10 institutions across the country for funding from the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute.

Comprehensive Post-Treatment Support

Cancer affects all aspects of your life, and it affects you even after treatments are completed. We offer robust support services – including a survivorship program and an integrative care center – to help you during treatment and in your life after treatment. 

Interventional Radiologist

Medical Oncologists


Thoracic Surgeons