Lung Cancer

Accurately diagnosing and treating lung cancer takes an experienced team equipped with the latest tools and technology. At Hackensack Meridian Health, our specialists use advanced imaging, robotic-assisted biopsy and genetic profiling to diagnose lung cancer. You receive a personalized treatment plan – targeted to your exact lung cancer.

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the U.S. in both men and women. Lung cancer occurs when cells of one or both lungs become abnormal, grow too quickly and become cancerous. The cancerous cells form tumors. The biggest risk factor for developing lung cancer is cigarette smoking. Lung cancer also can be caused by other tobacco use, breathing secondhand smoke, asbestos or radon exposure, and a family history of lung cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer often does not cause symptoms in its early stage. Over time, symptoms can develop. You should talk to your doctor if you have one of the following symptoms, which may be a sign of lung cancer or another lung condition:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Cough that does not improve
  • Hoarseness in your voice
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Battling Stage IV Lung Cancer

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Accurate Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

Your doctor may order tests if lung cancer is suspected. We always start with the least invasive way to rule out other conditions. Hackensack Meridian Health offers the most advanced imaging and laboratory testing. Our expert thoracic radiologists and pathologists specialize in identifying and diagnosing lung cancer.

John Theurer Cancer Center is designated as a Lung Cancer Screening Center of Excellence by the Lung Cancer Alliance. We specialize in spiral CT scanning, which can detect many lung cancers in their earlier, more curable stages before you even have symptoms.

Learn more about lung cancer screening and if you are at high risk for lung cancer. Call 844-HMH-WELL (844-464-9355) to make an appointment. Take our complimentary Lung Cancer Risk Assessment.

  • X-ray: A suspicious area in the lung may appear on an X-ray. However, a CT scan is needed to differentiate a benign nodule from a possible tumor.
  • CT: A CT scan creates detailed, 3D images of the inside of the lung to identify the smallest lesions not seen on X-ray. Sometimes, contrast dye is used to highlight the 

  • Sputum Cytology: If you have a productive cough, a sample can be looked at under a microscope for cancer cells. 
  • Biomarkers: Your blood and urine may be tested to look for biomarkers or other signs of cancer.  

Biopsy is the only way to diagnose lung cancer and determine its type. You’re in good hands with an experienced team using the most advanced technology – including robotic bronchoscopy – at Hackensack Meridian Health.
A biopsy may be taken one of several ways:

  • Bronchoscopy: The doctor places a thin, lighted scope down the throat and into the lung. The area is examined with a small camera and a tissue sample is removed. This is done under general anesthesia in less than an hour. You go home the same day.   
  • Robotic Bronchoscopy: We’ve taken bronchoscopy to the next level by offering robotic bronchoscopy. The doctor controls the robot’s arm that holds the fiberoptic bronchoscope. The benefits of robotic bronchoscopy include: 
    • Medical team can view the process while the robot holds the tools. 
    • Allows for easier navigation within the lungs. 
    • Greater dexterity and range of motion for hard-to-reach spots. 
    • Advanced camera technology with high-resolution images. 
  • Needle biopsy: A needle is passed under image guidance through the chest wall into the lung. A sample of tumor tissue is removed for testing. This is done with local anesthesia in less than an hour. You go home the same day.

Our pathologists who specialize in lung cancer conduct molecular analysis and next-generation sequencing of your biopsy tissue. Through a partnership with Genomic Testing Cooperative in Irvine, Calif., a first-of-its-kind genomic profiling laboratory, we can identify your cancer’s origin, biology and response to the immune system. The resulting genetic tumor profile allows your care team to design a unique treatment plan targeted to your precise type of lung cancer.  

What are the Types and Stages of Lung Cancer?

We know that not all types of lung cancer respond the same to treatment. That’s why we conduct extensive testing of your lung cancer biopsy. The information we learn – including the type and genetic make-up of your tumor – allows us to create a highly targeted treatment plan for your exact cancer.

Lung cancers are categorized into one of two major types – small cell or non-small cell lung cancer. About 80 percent of people with lung cancer have non-small cell.

There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer:

  • Adenocarcinoma: Most common type of lung cancer – about 30 percent of all lung cancer. Forms in cells in the outer lung that produce mucus.
  • Squamous Cell: Usually found in one of the main air tubes or in the center of the lung where the air tubes join the trachea.
  • Large-cell Undifferentiated Carcinoma: Can be found anywhere in the lungs and usually grows and spreads quickly. 

Lung cancers are categorized into one of two major types – small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is the less common of the two. This type of lung cancer is seen primarily in heavy smokers and can be more aggressive.

There are two main types of small cell lung cancer:

  • Small Cell Carcinoma 
  • Combined Small Cell Carcinoma: Also known as mixed small cell/large cell carcinoma

We treat other kinds of cancers in the lungs and chest, including:

Carcinoid Tumors: Located in a large airway, typically slow growing.
Mesothelioma: Found in the lining of the lungs, typically develops decades after exposure to asbestos.

Once your lung cancer has been diagnosed, it is important to determine its stage. Staging tells us the extent of the cancer and helps your care team recommend the best treatment. 

  • Stage I: Cancer is confined to the lung.
  • Stage II and III: Cancer has spread to lymph nodes within the chest.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized).

Tests to determine the stage of your lung cancer may include:

  • CT or MRI
  • PET (positron emission tomography)
  • Mediastinoscopy:  Incision is made at the base of the neck and a camera is inserted under the breastbone to take tissue samples of the lymph nodes.
  • Endobronchial Ultrasound (EBUS): Similar to a bronchoscopy but with an ultrasound.  Biopsies of lymph nodes can be taken. 

Leaders in Lung Cancer Treatment

Doctors at Hackensack Meridian Health are leaders in the most advanced approaches to lung cancer treatment.

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Why Choose John Theurer Cancer Center for Lung and Thoracic Cancer Treatment


U.S. News & World Report recognizes Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center as the best cancer center in New Jersey.

Patient Experience

Your entire care team works together to make sure your experience with us is a positive one.


Our average overnight hospital stay following lobectomy for lung cancer is half the national average (two days versus four days).


Cancer surgeons at John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center perform more minimally invasive cancer surgeries than any other center in New Jersey.

Our Lung Cancer and Thoracic Cancer Specialists

Our lung cancer specialists know the treatment of lung cancers is complex, and we support you every step of the way with comprehensive, customized care.

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