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Lung Cancer Program

The Gold Seal of ApprovalNorthside Hospital Cancer Institute (NHCI) is one of the nation’s leading providers of lung cancer care, earning a Disease-Specific Care Certification for lung cancer – The Joint Commission® Gold Seal of Approval® for health care quality.

What Is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the lungs, which are located in the chest cavity. When a person breathes, air goes through the nose, down the windpipe (trachea), and into the lungs, where it flows through tubes called bronchi. Most lung cancer begins in the cells that line these tubes.

There are two main types of lung cancer:

When a patient's lung cancer is made up of both types, it is called mixed small cell/large cell cancer. When the cancer started somewhere else in the body and spread to the lungs, it is called metastatic cancer to the lung.

Learn more

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Early stage lung cancer may not cause any symptoms. Symptoms depend on the type of lung cancer, but may include:

Learn more about lung cancer symptoms.

Lung Cancer Risk Factors & Prevention

Risk Factors

Lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed among people 65-74 years of age. Approximately 80 percent of lung cancer patients are 60 years of age or older

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. The more cigarettes a person smokes per day and the number of years they’ve been smoking, the greater their risk for lung cancer. There is no evidence that smoking low-tar cigarettes lowers a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.

Lung cancer can also affect people who have never smoked.

Secondhand smoke (breathing the smoke of others) increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.

The following are additional risk factors that have been linked to lung cancer:

  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Exposure to cancer-causing chemicals such as uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline and diesel exhaust
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • High levels of air pollution
  • High levels of arsenic in drinking water
  • Radiation therapy to the lungs


The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking or using other tobacco products.

As part of our comprehensive approach to lung cancer prevention and education, Northside offers Built To Quit, a smoking and tobacco cessation program offering resources to help individuals quit smoking and stop using other tobacco products. This program includes a six-week class that educates participants about the hazards of smoking and using tobacco products; the benefits of quitting; and the strategies and skills to cope with urges. The class is conducted primarily in a group setting, with face-to-face interaction that allows participants to learn from each other’s experiences. We also offer web-based sessions for your convenience.

For more information, please call 404-780-7653, email smokingcessation@northside.com or register for a class online.

2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (English)
2019 Built to Quit
Class Schedule (Spanish)


Learn more about lung cancer risk factors and prevention.

Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society, each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. There is no guaranteed prevention against lung cancer, but regular screenings are pivotal to early detection, when the disease is most treatable.


Northside Hospital Cancer Institute offers lung cancer screenings using low-dose computer tomography (CT) at multiple locations throughout Georgia. A low-dose CT is a non-invasive, painless procedure that uses low-dose X-rays to screen the lungs for cancer. Lung cancer screening using low-dose CT has become the national standard based on findings from clinical trials and other research-related publications. Organizations such as the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) have developed clinical practice guidelines for lung cancer screening within high risk populations.

Health Insurance and Lung Cancer Screening

For Medicare patients, physicians will use the following criteria to determine whether a patient should be screened.

  • 55-77 years of age
  • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • 30-pack year smoking history or greater (a pack a day for 30 years or more)
  • Current smokers or one who has quit smoking within the last 15 years

For non-Medicare patients, similar criteria will most likely be used by insurance providers to determine eligibility. Patients must have a written order from a physician to receive a lung cancer screening using low-dose CT.

For questions regarding lung cancer screening using low-dose CT or to determine whether you meet eligibility criteria, please call Northside Hospital Cancer Institute at 404-531-4444.

  • Lung Cancer Screening Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Diagnosis

    Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. In the United States, more than 200,000 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in 2017.

    Northside Hospital Cancer Institute offers diagnostic procedures and specialized cancer care for the following types of lung cancer:

    Learn more about the different types of lung cancer.

    A full evaluation by a pulmonologist, with additional imaging scans (chest X-ray, CT scan, PET scan), may be involved in the diagnosis of lung cancer. Possible endoscopy procedures may include one that looks inside the bronchial tree, while another may assess enlarged lymph nodes with an ultrasound. A biopsy will ultimately establish a lung cancer diagnosis. Once all of this information is gathered, if cancer is confirmed, staging will take place (based on the size, location and extent of the tumor). This information is critical to determining appropriate treatment recommendations.

    Interventional Pulmonology

    Many of the Northside Hospital pulmonologists are sub-specialized in the area of interventional pulmonology, offering advanced, non-invasive techniques and procedures to assist with diagnosing lung cancers. Interventional pulmonology procedures and technologies used to diagnose lung cancers include:

    Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS)

    EBUS allows physicians to perform a technique known as transbronchial needle aspiration (TBNA) to obtain tissue or fluid samples from the lungs and surrounding lymph nodes without conventional surgery. The samples can be used for diagnosing and staging lung cancer, detecting infections, and identifying inflammatory diseases that affect the lungs, such as sarcoidosis or other cancers like lymphoma.

    Thoracic Navigation System (or Navigational Bronchoscopy)

    photo of Thoracic Navigation System

    The electromagnetic navigation system uses trackable instruments with embedded sensors that are guided to the lung lesion using GPS technology. Standard CT images of the lung create a “route” to the lesion, allowing physicians to easily biopsy and place markers for planned treatment. As a result, physicians can navigate to and biopsy lesions located deep in the lungs using a minimally-invasive approach.

    Team of Lung Cancer Specialists

    The strength of the NHCI Lung Cancer Program is our multidisciplinary team of dedicated, specially trained lung cancer specialists who work together every step of the way to provide individualized care for each lung cancer patient. Northside’s lung cancer care team offers a comprehensive scope of medical services, the latest technology, leading-edge clinical research and compassionate support.

    Our multidisciplinary medical team of lung cancer specialists consists of:

    • Thoracic surgeons
    • Pulmonologists
    • Interventional pulmonologists
    • Medical oncologists
    • Radiation oncologists
    • Radiologists
    • Pathologists
    • Certified genetic counselors
    • Lung cancer screening nurse navigator
    • Lung cancer treatment nurse navigator
    • Clinical research nurses

    Rollover the graphic for more information

    Multidisciplinary 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

    Weekly multidisciplinary cancer conferences provide a forum for our lung cancer specialists to review radiology and pathology images and discuss the best Lung Cancer Treatment Options, including clinical trials, and agree upon an evidence-based treatment plan for each patient. By prospectively discussing lung cancer cases during conference, lung cancer patients get the benefit of not just one clinical perspective but more than a dozen lung cancer expert opinions.

    Lung Cancer Treatment Options

    Treatment for lung cancer depends on the type and stage of lung cancer. Options typically include one or more treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted drug therapy. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is committed to providing high quality lung cancer treatment and to making access to this cancer care as convenient as possible.

    Northside Hospital Cancer Institute’s Lung Cancer Program treats many types of lung cancer with the latest treatments, including personalized therapies based on the lung cancer’s specific genetic makeup. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute lung cancer specialists and supportive care team members work together to ensure all lung cancer patients receive high quality, evidence-based care.

    Seventy-five percent of the lung cancer surgeries at Northside are performed using minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as robot-assisted surgery and other advanced technologies that yield some of the most successful results in the country. Lung cancer patients receive post-operative care from a team of highly skilled nurses and providers who take care of patients staying overnight in our 40-bed inpatient thoracic surgery unit at the Northside Hospital campus in Atlanta. Northside Hospital Atlanta is also rated as a High Performing Hospital for Lung Cancer Surgery by US News and World Report.

    Surgical options used to treat lung cancer include:

    • Pneumonectomy
    • Lobectomy
    • Segmentectomy or wedge resection
    • Sleeve resection
    • Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)

    Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a treatment option used for patients with small lung tumors located near the outer edge of the lungs, and is an option for patients who are not able to tolerate surgery. RFA uses high-energy radio waves to heat the tumor. A thin, needle-like probe is put through the skin and moved inside the body until the tip is in the tumor. Placement of the probe is guided by CT scans. Once the tip is in place, an electric current is passed through the probe, which heats the tumor and destroys the cancer cells.

    Chemotherapy, or “chemo” uses medication to destroy cancer cells by stopping growth. Most often, treatment for lung cancer uses a combination of two chemotherapy drugs.

    At Northside's infusion centers, chemotherapy is provided to lung cancer patients on an outpatient basis by registered nurses who are certified in chemotherapy administration.

    Chemotherapy- Questions to ask the doctor

    Radiation therapy, or radiation oncology, is a treatment that uses high energy X-rays or radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used before lung cancer surgery to shrink a tumor; after surgery to kill remaining cancerous cells; as the main treatment for lung cancer; to treat an area of cancer spread; or to relieve (palliate) symptoms of advanced lung cancer

    External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy are the most common techniques for treating lung cancer with radiation therapy.

    Learn more about our Radiation Oncology services.

    Targeted therapies are most often used for advanced lung cancers, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy. They are designed to only treat the cancer cells, and therefore, minimize damage to normal, healthy cells. In order to become cancer cells, healthy cells must go through a process called angiogenesis. Targeted therapy disrupts this process and the cellular changes necessary for development and growth.

    Biological therapy, also called immunotherapy, uses the body’s immune system to treat cancer. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation or targeted therapy which fight cancer cells directly, immunotherapy helps the immune system to fight cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs can be used in people with certain types of lung cancer that starts growing again after chemotherapy or other drug treatments.

    Learn more about our Immunotherapy Program

    Immunotherapy - Questions to ask the doctor

    Northside Hospital physicians perform more lung-cancer related photodynamic therapy procedures than any other institution in the nation. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a procedure in which a special chemical is injected into the blood stream. The chemical is absorbed by all the cells but does not stay in normal cells long. It remains in cancer cells quite a while and a laser aimed at the cancer activates the chemical to kill the cancer cells.

    PDT is often used for relief of symptoms (such as breathing problems or bleeding) in non-small cell lung cancer and can also treat small tumors.

    Clinical trials are studies that involve people and are a critical part of oncology research. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose and treat cancer. Patients who take part in cancer clinical trials have an opportunity to contribute to scientists’ knowledge of cancer and to help in the development of improved cancer treatments, while receiving state-of-the-art care from cancer experts.

    Learn more about Cancer Clinical Trials and Research at Northside Hospital

    Learn more about NHCI cancer treatment options.

    Lung Cancer Support & Survivorship

    Ongoing support is crucial when facing lung cancer and afterward. Northside Hospital Cancer Institute provides a full range of lung cancer support and survivorship programs and services to address the unique needs of lung cancer patients.

    Lung cancer treatment and recovery can be overwhelming, which is why our Lung Cancer Program offers patient access to oncology nurse navigators to guide patients every step of their journey. Our lung cancer nurse navigators are registered nurses with extensive knowledge and training in oncology. They help guide patients through the lung cancer screening process and provide support and education after a lung cancer diagnosis and through treatment. They also work with radiologists, pulmonologists, surgeons, oncologists and other specialists to coordinate treatment plans and facilitate communication between the patient and their oncology care team.

    Support provided by our lung cancer screening and treatment nurse navigators includes:

    • Providing clinical information and education about lung cancer.
    • Answering questions about lung cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment and any side effects experienced.
    • Facilitating communication between the patient and their lung cancer care team.
    • Providing access to emotional and psychological support, including referrals to the right counseling services and support groups.
    • Monitoring each patient’s health and overall lung cancer treatment progress.

    Our oncology nurse navigators facilitate access to Northside’s comprehensive portfolio of cancer patient support services including Nutrition, Behavioral Health and Social Work, Rehabilitation, and Clinical Research to coordinate a personalized lung cancer treatment plan depending upon each patient’s unique needs, including clinical, practical and emotional needs.

    For lung cancer patients and survivors, Northside Hospital is ready to give you the support you need. To learn more about oncology patient navigation or to speak with an oncology nurse navigator, please call 404-300-2800 or email nurse.navigator@northside.com.

    Learn more about our cancer Support & Survivorship services


    Northside Hospital encourages lung cancer awareness all-year long