The Lung Cancer Unit of IOB Institute of Oncology attends to patients for whom there is a suspicion of a possible lung cancer that needs a diagnosis to confirm or rule out the presence of a tumor, as well as patients who have already been diagnosed in other centers and who come to IOB to receive treatment.
It also offers the service of providing a second opinion to patients under care in other centers in order to guide their individual decisions taking into account the type of lung cancer, the degree of extension of the disease and the genetic and molecular characteristics of the tumor cells.
Patients treated in the Lung Cancer Unit are attended to by a multidisciplinary team made up of oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, surgeons, anatomical pathologists and nursing staff specialized in cancer.
Furthermore, IOB offers psychological and psychiatric attention for patients who need it, as well as specialists in nutrition and complementary medicine such as acupuncture and hypnosis for the treatment of anxiety and pain.
This multidisciplinary team makes it easier for patients to be able to undergo all the tests and receive all the treatments that they need in a coordinated manner, in the same location and in the shortest amount of time, without the need to go to different centers and separately manage visits to different specialists.
Lung cancers do not usually produce easily identifiable symptoms in their early phases and at the moment there is no early detection for lung cancer equivalent to the mammogram for breast cancer.
However, there are certain symptoms that can alert us to the appearance of lung cancer and which merit a medical visit to achieve the earliest possible detection.
Even though many of these symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer, it is best to consult a specialist without delay if there are one or more of the following symptoms:
Lung cancer can affect anybody, so these recommendations for early detection apply to the entire population.
However, it is advisable that those who have smoked for several years, even if they have quit smoking, or those who have been subject to second-hand smoke, take special precautions, given that tobacco use is the principal risk factor for lung cancer.
The diagnosis of lung cancer starts with a chest X-ray to check the cause of the symptoms that led to the suspicion of a possible tumor.
If the chest X-ray confirms the presence of a mass of anomalous cells in the lung, additional imaging tests are usually performed to obtain more information about these cells.
These additional tests usually include computerized tomography (CT). For the definitive confirmation of the diagnosis, a biopsy must be performed, in which a sample of the possible tumor cells is extracted so that they can be analyzed in the laboratory.
The analysis of these cells clarifies whether they are cancerous or not, and in the case that they are, the type of cancer we are talking of.
Given that there are multiple types of different lung cancer, the detailed analysis of the cells is essential to achieve a precise diagnosis.
IOB is a pioneer in the introduction of genetic analysis to determine the molecular characteristics of each tumor and prescribe the most suitable treatment for each patient.
If a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, a new imaging test must be performed (a positron emission tomography or PET scan) in order to specify if the tumor is localized in its point of origin, if it has begun to invade contiguous tissues or if it has spread to other organs.
Furthermore, a complete blood test, including analysis for tumor markers, will offer additional information to assess the degree of extension of the cancer.
IOB’s quick diagnostic circuit has allowed us to reduce the timeframe to as little as one week for the average time between the first consultation of a patient diagnosed with lung cancer, or suspected lung cancer, and the start of the treatment.
The treatment of lung cancer must be decided on an individual basis for each patient and founded on the precise characteristics of each tumor and the disease’s degree of extension at the moment of diagnosis.
The individualization of treatment is key for achieving maximum therapeutic efficacy.
Just as happens in other forms of cancer, the goal of the treatment can be curative (aimed at completely eliminating the tumor) or palliative (aimed at prolonging life and reducing suffering in those cases in which the complete elimination of the tumor is not possible).
When the cancer is circumscribed within its location of origin, the treatment is based on surgical intervention with the objective of removing the tumor entirely.
After the operation, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy are administered to eliminate the tumor cells that may have remained after the surgery. After the surgery, the patient’s evolution is closely monitored, especially over the first three years.
Medical check-ups consist of full blood tests with checks for tumor markers every three months and imaging tests every six months.
In those cases, in which the cancer has spread to other organs and surgery would not eliminate all of the tumor cells, the treatment is usually based on chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
An elevated number of patients can also benefit from new generations of drugs that selectively attack some specific tumors based on their molecular characteristics.