Lung cancer care in Aurora

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. At The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA), our cancer program is accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC). We work with you and your family to make the process as smooth as possible while guiding you through lung cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment.

For more information about our lung cancer program, call askSARAH at (303) 253-3325 to speak to a registered nurse 24/7.

Our expertly-trained physicians, lung nurse navigators and compassionate nursing team at The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) are available to help ensure that you understand your diagnosis and the procedures or treatments that may be recommended.

Lung cancer symptoms

A large majority of lung cancers in adults are caused by smoking, however, non-smokers can also be diagnosed with lung cancer. Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Change in a chronic cough
  • New cough that won’t go away
  • Pain in ribs or chest

People with a previous history of pulmonary diseases related to smoking are also at risk for lung cancer.

Are you at risk for lung cancer?

More than 2,500 Coloradans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. If you meet one of the following criteria, you may be at risk for lung cancer.

  • Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products like cigars or pipes
  • Breathing in secondhand smoke from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes
  • Being exposed to high levels of radon, a naturally occurring gas that comes from rocks and dirt that can get trapped in houses and buildings
  • Being exposed to some workplace substances, including asbestos, arsenic, diesel exhaust and some forms of silica and chromium
  • Being a lung cancer survivor, especially if you smoke
  • Having parents, brothers, sisters or children who have had lung cancer
  • Being a cancer survivor who had radiation therapy to the chest
  • Being a smoker who takes beta-carotene supplements

Lung cancer screening

Lung cancer screening is performed using a computed tomography (CT) scan to take a picture of your lungs. It’s one of the easiest screening exams you can have—it’s fast, painless and non-invasive. No medications are given, and no needles are used. You can also eat before and after the exam.

The goal of lung screening is to identify cancer at an early stage. Without lung cancer screenings, lung cancer is usually not found until a person develops symptoms. At that time, the cancer is much harder to treat. Screening is continuous program, not a single test. An annual scan is recommended for most individuals who meet the screening criteria.

Most insurance providers cover lung cancer screening as a preventive service for high-risk individuals, and they require that a healthcare provider order the exam. Contact your insurance provider for questions about coverage. Based on eligibility, our staff will work with you and your primary care doctor to obtain the required physician’s order and refer you to the most convenient screening site. A lung screening coordinator will support you throughout the entire experience and contact both you and your doctor with results to ensure you receive the follow-up care you need.

Who should get a lung screening?

Lung screening is recommended for the following group of people who are at high risk for lung cancer:

  • People between 55 and 77 years old
  • People who have smoked at least an average of one pack a day for 30 years (this includes people who still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years)

Those who have symptoms of a lung condition at the time of screening, such as a new cough or shortness of breath, may not be eligible.

I think I qualify for lung cancer screening. What should I do next?

Call our lung screening coordinator at (303)-338-7120 for more information or to schedule an exam. Please note that we will need an order for lung cancer screening from your healthcare provider before your exam. See the map below for convenient screening locations.

Navigation bronchoscopy

Early detection of lung cancer is critical. The traditional bronchoscope can’t reach many lung lesions, leading to delays in treatment or the need for more invasive procedures. Navigation bronchoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, plays a key role in successful early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. This innovative technology is currently only available in a few metro Denver area hospitals, including TMCA.

This system works like a GPS tracking system in locating a tumor for biopsy. Through advanced technology and software, the system is able to use natural airway access to reach regions deep in the lung in order to locate small lung lesions for testing and treatment. A biopsy is then obtained for testing, diagnosis and possible treatment.

Lung cancer treatment

At TMCA, our surgeons and staff treat the two main types of lung cancer—non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

Non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) is often treated with surgery alone if it is diagnosed during the early stages, stage I or stage II. If the cancer is diagnosed at stage III, then a combination of treatments may be offered, which can include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Stage IV lung cancer is often treated with chemotherapy alone. In some cases, radiation can be included depending on the extent of the disease and patient symptoms.

If chemotherapy is recommended as part of your treatment, molecular testing of your cancer for known genetic mutations will be completed. There are many targeted chemotherapy drugs available today that can target the exact genetic mutation of your tumor. About 20 percent of patients with NSCLC will carry a mutation and can possibly benefit from targeted therapy.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), either limited or extensive stage, is most often treated with chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery does not play a role in most patients that are diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.

Each patient is different, reacts differently to treatment and takes a different recovery path. When you entrust us with your lung cancer care, we make sure you have every possible form of support you need during your treatment and recovery.

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute

As a member of the Sarah Cannon Cancer Network of Excellence, our family of hospitals features leading edge cancer treatment and clinical trials. Sarah Cannon offers modern therapies for people facing cancer across the U.S. and our partnership provides patients personal, individualized care while benefiting from the network of resources Sarah Cannon has to offer.

askSARAH helpline

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at The Medical Center of Aurora in Denver, Colorado is pleased to offer access to askSARAH, a dedicated helpline designed to help answer your cancer-related questions. Whether you have been recently diagnosed with cancer or have questions with screenings, signs or symptoms, a registered askSARAH nurse can help. Committed to ensuring you have the right resources close to home, our nurses are available 24/7 and all calls are confidential. Contact askSARAH at (303) 253-3325 to connect directly to a nurse to help you today.