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We treat all types of lung cancers and a wide range of thoracic cancers using a collaborative approach. Experts from various medical specialties gather together to discuss the best ways to treat a patient and to create a personalized care plan. These specialists include medical oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists and pathologists. 

Learn more about the conditions we treat.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. It develops when malignant, or cancerous, cells form in the tissues of the lung.

People who smoke tend to be at greater risk for lung cancer, although nonsmokers may also be diagnosed with lung cancer, particularly if they are exposed to secondhand smoke or other environmental factors such as asbestos, arsenic or other substances in the workplace.

Other risk factors include radiation exposure, a family history of lung cancer and being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer, which are named for how large the cancer cells appear under a microscope: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma – Also called an epidermoid carcinoma, this type of cancer forms in the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the lungs.
  • Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma – This type of cancer may begin in several types of large cells.
  • Adenocarcinoma – This cancer begins in the cells the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs in the lungs.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small Cell Lung Cancer is less common and accounts for about 10% or 15% of lung cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Signs and Symptoms

Lung cancer does not always cause symptoms, and may be found during a chest X-ray done for another condition. However, if you experience any of the following, you should check with your doctor to see if they are caused by lung cancer or by other conditions: 

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Blood is mucus coughed up from the lungs
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Fatigue, or feeling very tired
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck

Lung Cancer Staging

The severity of the disease depends on the size and the extent of the tumor, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Physicians turn to a standardized staging system to better understand how far the cancer has spread and how to best treat it.

  • Stage I – Cancer is found only in the lung.
  • Stage II – Cancerous cells have spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III – Cancer has spread to lymph nodes located in various areas of the chest.
  • Stage IV – Cancer has spread to both lungs, into the area around the lungs or to distant organs.
Related Treatments
Cancer of the Trachea, Thymus, Chest Wall and Mediastinum

Weill Cornell Medicine’s expertise extends into cancer of the trachea, thymus, chest wall and mediastinum. These types of cancers include:

  • Tracheal Cancer
  • Chest Wall Tumors
  • Mediastinal Tumors
  • Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma

Tracheal Cancer

Also known as the windpipe, the trachea is part of the airway system, which brings oxygen to your lungs. Tracheal cancer is a rare condition and, in most cases, slow growing. Tumors may also occur after cancers from other parts of the body – such as the thyroid, esophagus, larynx or lung – spread to the trachea.

The three types of malignant tumors more common in the trachea are:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma, which is usually associated with smoking
  • Adenoid cystic carcinomas, which spread along the lining of the trachea
  • Carcinoid tumor, a slow-growing mass that originates in the cells of the endocrine or nervous system. These types of tumors can occur anywhere in the body, including the trachea

Thymoma and Thymic Carcinoma

There are rare tumors in which malignant cells form in the thymus. The thymus is a small gland behind the breast bone (sternum). During early childhood and adolescence, the thymus produces a special type of blood cells called lymphocytes which helps fight infections.

Thymomas are the most common type of thymic tumors and can invade adjacent tissues such as the lungs. Many people with thymoma also have autoimmune diseases, in which their immune systems attack healthy tissue and organs. Autoimmune diseases typically associated with thymoma include:

  • Myasthenia gravis.
  • Acquired pure red cell aplasia.
  • Hypogammaglobulinemia.
  • Polymyositis.
  • Lupus erythematosus.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Thyroiditis.
  • Sjögren syndrome.

Thymic carcinoma is an uncommon type of thymic tumors that are more aggressive than thymoma. Whenever possible, surgical removal is an important component of treatment of all thymic tumors. Treatment is sometimes supplemented with radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Chest Wall Tumors

The chest wall refers to the area framed by the ribs, sternum (breastbone) and spine. This area houses and protects the lungs, heart and other important body parts.

There are many types of chest wall tumors, which are usually described as primary or secondary tumors.

Primary tumors originate in the bone or muscle of the chest wall and can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Secondary tumors start elsewhere in the body and then spread to the chest wall. These tumors are almost always cancerous. 

Related Treatments
Metastatic Lung and Thoracic Cancers

Metastatic cancer occurs when malignant (cancerous) cells spread from one part of the body to another.

Primary tumors develop in the original site of the cancer — such as a lung or chest — while secondary tumors develop in other parts of the body.

Cancer can spread to almost every part of the body, although different types of cancer are more likely to spread to certain areas than others. With lung cancer, secondary tumors often occur in the adrenal gland, bone, brain, liver or the opposite lung.

Secondary tumors may also develop in the lungs or chest. Common cancers associated with secondary lung tumors include:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Testicular cancer

Weill Cornell Medicine uses a team approach to treat metastatic cancers, pulling in experts from throughout the institution, not just the Lung and Thoracic Oncology program.

Several treatment options are available, including targeted therapies and surgery. We also offer clinical trials, giving patients access to the most advanced cancer treatments available.

Related Treatments
Cardiac (Heart) Tumors

Cardiac tumors are abnormal growths in the heart or heart valves. They can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous). Because of the heart’s cellular structure, cardiac tumors are rare.

Types of Cardiac Tumors

At Weill Cornell Medicine, we treat both primary and secondary tumors.

Primary Tumors

Primary tumors originate in the heart itself and are extremely rare. Most primary heart tumors are benign, but can still pose health hazards because of their size and location. In some cases, small pieces of tumor can make their way into the bloodstream and cause embolisms, which block blood flow to vital organs.

Myxoma is the most common noncancerous primary heart tumor and occurs more often in women. Other types of benign primary cardiac tumors include:

  • Papillary fibroelastomas
  • Fibromas
  • Rhabdomyomas
  • Hemangiomas
  • Teratomas
  • Lipomas
  • Paragangliomas
  • Pericardial cysts

Malignant primary heart tumors are less common and include:

  • Pericardial mesothelioma
  • Primary lymphoma
  • Sarcoma 

Secondary Tumors

Secondary tumors — which develop when cancer in another part of the body travels to the heart — are much more common.

Lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, renal cell cancer or lymphoma are the cancers most often associated with secondary cardiac tumors.

Signs and Symptoms

Cardiac tumors can be hard to diagnose because symptoms are similar to other heart diseases. In some cases, individuals are unaware they have a tumor until they have an echocardiogram or X-ray for another reason.

Signs of cardiac tumors may include:

  • Difficulty breathing when asleep or lying flat
  • Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain or tightness in the chest
  • Blockages of blood flow
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in the size and shape of the heart
Related Treatments