Lung Diseases

Lung diseases are some of the most common medical conditions people suffer from in the United States. Symptoms of lung disease may include: cough, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, pain in chest, shoulder, upper back or arm, wheezing, fatigue, repeated pneumonia or bronchitis, loss of appetite, hoarseness, swelling of the face or neck. Many of these symptoms are similar to other common illnesses, but if a symptom persists, it is important to be examined by your primary care physician.

New Lung Cancer Screening Test

Lung cancer is a very serious disease and often will not exhibit symptoms until the disease has progressed. Recognizing this fact, Milford Regional is offering a new screening test for lung cancer to detect the disease early when it is most treatable. Early detection can dramatically affect the outcome of the disease which is why patients are encouraged to speak to their primary care physician about this test. Whether or not you should have the CT screening test will depend on your smoking history, along with your age, medical history and family history.

Patients at high risk include those who meet all of the following criteria:

  • Are 55 to 80 years old
  • Have a smoking history of 30 or more pack years (pack years are the number of cigarette packs smoked per day multiplied by the number of years a person has smoked).
  • Are currently smoking or who have quit within the last 15 years.

The lung cancer screening test is covered by Medicare for patients 55 to 77 years old and by most commercial insurance plans for patients 55 to 80 years old.

If you fit the criteria, speak to your doctor about obtaining a referral for this lung cancer screening test.

Depending on the results of the diagnostic tests, you may be referred to our thoracic surgery group for further testing. Your thoracic surgeon will analyze the test results and may order further tests such as a PET/CT scan and possibly a biopsy to help diagnose and stage the disease.

Lung Cancer

If lung cancer is confirmed, it usually will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Non-small cell lung cancer – is the most common form of lung cancer (approximately 85% of all cases fall into this category). Within this category, the main forms include:
    • Adenocarcinoma
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
    • Large cell carcinoma
      These forms of lung cancer are further categorized into one of four stages depending on the size of the tumor and if and where the cancer has spread.
  2. Small cell lung cancer – cells are much smaller and tend to spread quicker to other parts of the body. It is staged as limited, extensive or recurrent.

Treatment for lung cancer will often include surgery and either/or chemotherapy and radiation therapy. In order to develop the best possible treatment plan, each patient’s case is presented to a multi-disciplinary board of cancer experts in medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology and thoracic surgery. Additional oncologists are teleconferenced into these meetings from Brigham and Women’s hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Collaboration among these highly experienced specialists produces the best possible treatment plan for each patient.

Most often the patient will undergo surgery first, followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The size of the tumor and how wide-spread it is will determine which surgery is warranted:

  • Wedge – to remove small section of lung
  • Segment – to remove a larger portion but not the entire lobe
  • Lobectomy – to remove entire lobe of one lung
  • Pneumonectomy – to remove entire lung

When you are discharged from the hospital after surgery, you will be given a follow-up appointment with your thoracic surgeon. You will also be given discharge instructions, any prescriptions you may need and you will also follow-up with your oncologist for treatment at the Cancer Center.

Benign Lung Disease

Lung diseases that are not malignant but may be referred to a thoracic surgeon for treatment includes:

Benign tumors of the lung
Pulmonary cysts
Benign strictures
Effusion (accumulation of fluid in the chest)
Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
Lung infections

Treatments for benign lung disease, depending on the condition, may include:
Surgery to remove tumors or cysts
Drainage procedures
Lung volume reduction (for emphysema)
Stent insertion for strictures
Simple surveillance

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

After discharge from the hospital following lung surgery, many patients benefit from our Outpatient Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program. This is an exercise and educational program that helps patients with lung disease improve their quality of life. Read more about this program.

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