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Lung Cancer

First hospital in Georgia to receive national lung cancer certification

Northside 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:

  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing.
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back.
  • Coughing up blood or rust colored sputum.
  • Fatigue.
  • Losing weight without trying.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Hoarseness.

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 additional information please call 404-780-7653 or email or  register online for an upcoming class.

Built to Quit Class Schedule (English)
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 computer tomography (CT) at multiple locations throughout Georgia. A CT is a non-invasive, painless procedure that uses low-dose X-rays to screen the lungs for cancer. Lung cancer screening using 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.
  • A shared decision making discussion is required with your physician to determine eligibility for an initial CT lung cancer screening.

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 CT.

For questions regarding lung cancer screening using CT or to determine whether you meet eligibility criteria, please call the Northside Hospital Lung Cancer Screening Concierge Line at 404-531-4626.

Lung Cancer Screening Frequently Asked Questions.


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.

Lung Nodule Clinic

Northside Hospital's Lung Nodule Clinic provides fast, accurate, and efficient diagnosis and management of suspicious lung nodules. The clinic is designed to provide care to patients who receive an abnormal chest imaging report of a concerning lung nodule. To refer a patient or to schedule an appointment, please call the Lung Nodule Clinic Information Line at 404-845-5050.

Learn more about Northside's Lung Nodule Clinic.

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)

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.

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.

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

Learn more about our cancer Support & Survivorship services


Northside Hospital encourages lung cancer awareness all-year long