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Lung Cancer Treatment in Houston, TX

What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer – a malignant, abnormal growth of tissue in the lungs – is the second most common type of cancer affecting men and women in the United States, trailing only prostate cancer (in men) and breast cancer (in women).

While this disease is certainly treatable, it can take a while for symptoms to develop and, therefore, may not be detected until it has spread to other parts of your body. This is why it’s so important for those at high risk (see criteria below) to be diligent about receiving regular lung cancer screenings.

Lung Cancer Diagnostics and Treatment in Houston, TX

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer or if lung cancer is suspected, you’re likely feeling a range of emotions, not the least of which is a fear of the unknown. At Memorial Hermann, we understand this is a difficult time. That’s why we’re committed to offering you the highest level of lung cancer diagnostics and treatment in the Greater Houston area, in an environment focused on your comfort and healing.

How is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?

In addition to physical exams and detailed medical histories,  advances in medical technology now allow us to pinpoint suspicious masses in or around your lungs using diagnostic scans, called computed tomography (CT). If  an abnormality is detected on the CT, a biopsy will be scheduled, a tissue sample will be examined by a pathologist and a diagnosis will be determined.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

The symptoms listed below are not specific to lung cancer, but it’s important to notify your doctor as soon as you experience any, especially if they’re persistent.

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing 

Lung Cancer Screenings for High-Risk Patients

Many lung cancers don’t cause noticeable symptoms until they have reached an advanced stage. And because early detection can drastically improve the chance of recovery, we strongly encourage annual lung cancer screenings for those at higher risk.

In 2014, Memorial Hermann introduced a screening process for high-risk patients who may not exhibit any symptoms. Using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT), we provide patients with annual lung cancer screenings to scan the lungs for hidden tumors, nodules, or other signs of cancer.

If you’re a current or former smoker and considered at higher risk of developing lung cancer (see criteria listed below), please consider what could be a life-saving screening.

Criteria for High-Risk Patients

In 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study promoting the below lung cancer screening guidelines. If you fit the criteria below for a high-risk patient, please speak with your primary care physician about ordering a lung cancer screening from Memorial Hermann.

  • Ages 55-77
  • Currently, or in the past, have smoked at least one pack a day for 30 years
  • Currently a smoker, or has quit within the last 15 years
  • Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer

By screening those who fit this criteria, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the diagnosis of Stage I and II lung cancers – the most treatable types of lung cancer – increased by 22 percent. Other more recent studies have shown a 44 percent improvement in the detection of Stage I and II lung cancers with the use of LDCT lung cancer screening.

To schedule a Lung Cancer Screening, contact one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators at 833-770-7771 or fill out the form on this page to receive more information.

What are the Two Most Common Types of Lung Cancer?

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The majority of lung cancers – around 85 percent – are classified as non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). Most often developed in the outer portions of the lungs, non-small cell lung cancers typically are responsive to surgical treatment if detected early.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) affects about 15 percent of all lung cancer patients and gets its name from its small, monotonous-looking cells that grow centrally in the lung, near the main air tubes. These cancer cells can spread quickly to the lymph nodes or areas outside of the chest, so this type of lung cancer is often considered more dangerous than non-small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer has the highest association with cigarette smoking and can affect both active and former smokers. Surgery is not normally recommended. Instead, your doctor may prescribe a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to ensure all cancer cells are targeted.

What are the Stages of Lung Cancer?

After diagnosis, your doctor will determine if lung cancer is contained within your lungs or has spread to any other parts of your body. This process is called staging. While no two people – and no two cancers – are the same, staging provides a guideline for doctors to develop the best course of treatment.

The stages are as follows:

  • Stage I Lung Cancer: The tumor is confined to one lobe of the lung and has not spread to lymph nodes or areas outside the chest. Lung cancers caught in this stage have the highest chances of being cured.
  • Stage II Lung Cancer: The tumor is larger or has spread to the lymph nodes in the chest.
  • Stage III Lung Cancer: Similar to Stage II, with more lymph node involvement or a larger size of cancer. Generally, it is determined that surgery is not helpful in these cases, and a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is normally prescribed.
  • Stage IV Lung Cancer:  The tumor has spread outside of the chest to the liver, bones or the adrenal glands above the kidneys. While there is treatment available for Stage IV lung cancer, it is generally not curative. However, chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy, along with supportive care, can extend traditional life expectancies for these patients.

Treatment Options for Lung Cancer

No matter your stage at diagnosis, Memorial Hermann is committed to providing you with the most advanced treatment options, tailored to your specific situation.

Those treatment options include but are not limited to:

  • Thoracotomy: This surgery involves removing the lobe of the lung containing a tumor. In some cases, breathing tests will be conducted prior to surgery to determine if the patient can handle the loss of lung tissue. Surgical removal generally provides the best outcomes for early-stage lung cancers.
  • Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS): Similar to a thoracotomy, VATS is a significantly less-invasive procedure. The surgeon inserts a small video camera into the chest cavity through a few small incisions, allowing them to conduct the tissue removal procedure with reduced chance of complications or infection. This treatment typically allows for a quicker recovery time.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT): Sparing normal tissue, this is a form of external radiation therapy focused on the specific area where the tumor is located. Unlike traditional radiation therapy, SBRT involves four-to-five sequential treatments administered over the course of a week, with each treatment lasting only a few minutes.
  • External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT): This is the most common form of radiation therapy for cancer treatment. While not as focused as SBRT, advances in medical technology have increased precision and helped minimize damage to normal tissue. Radiation doses are also lower than SBRT and spread out over several weeks.

Causes of Lung Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, the majority of people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 years of age or older. Unfortunately, 70 percent of those are diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer – providing even more reason for high-risk individuals to consider an annual lung cancer screening.

Not surprisingly, tobacco use is the leading cause of lung cancer, and smoking is responsible for 85 to 90 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses. Second-hand smoke can also increase your risk of lung cancer by as much as 30 percent.

Learn More About Memorial Hermann’s Tobacco Cessation Program

It is, however, possible to develop lung cancer even if you’ve never smoked. Adenocarcinoma, a form of non-small cell lung cancer, is the most common lung cancer found in nonsmokers and about 40 percent of all lung cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Exposure to certain toxic chemicals has also been known to cause lung cancer, including:

  • Asbestos (may cause mesothelioma, a cancer of the outer lining of the lung)
  • Radon gas
  • Uranium
  • Arsenic
  • Coal products

Why Choose Memorial Hermann

At Memorial Hermann, we believe the early detection of lung cancer will save countless lives, today and in the future. And  it is this belief that drives our commitment to remain at the forefront of offering the most advanced and effective lung cancer screening programs.

If you’re a current or former smoker and considered at higher risk of developing lung cancer, please speak with your doctor about ordering a lung cancer screening. Or if you prefer, you can also talk to one of our Oncology Nurse Navigators by calling 833-770-7771 or fill out the form on this page today to receive more information about a screening.