Lung Cancer Program

At the Western Connecticut Health Network, we understand how overwhelming it feels to face a diagnosis of lung cancer. Our dedicated cancer specialists provide the expertise, guidance and personalized support you need. With our multidisciplinary case conferences, every patient benefits from the input of many experts in designing a cancer treatment plan to bring you evidence-based treatments for the best possible outcome.

The decision of where to be treated for cancer is an important one, for you and your family. Our dedicated cancer specialists provide the expertise, guidance and personalized support you need. We treat all stage and types of lung cancer including:

The decision of where to be treated for cancer is an important one, for you and your family. Our dedicated cancer specialists provide the expertise, guidance and personalized support you need. We treat all stage and types of lung cancer including:

  • NSCLC:  Non-small cell lung cancer including Adenocarcinoma and Squamous cell, large cell and mixed type
  • SCLC:  Small cell lung cancer
  • Carcinoid/neuroendocrine tumors
  • Mesothelioma 
Other reasons to choose WCHN include:
  • Our physicians have trained at some of the country’s most prestigious medical programs. They bring training, along with decades of clinical expertise, directly to you in your own community.
  • Fellowship trained oncologic surgeons specializing in lung cancer
  • Dedicated diagnostic and interventional pulmonologists and radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and pathologists
  • Our comprehensive multidisciplinary program offers screening, diagnosis, treatment, education and support, research and clinical trials.
  • Our multidisciplinary care team of experts meet regularly to discuss every patient’s care and develop an individualized and comprehensive treatment plan offering hope and options.
  • Oncology nurse navigators assist you with education and support
  • We offer advanced minimally-invasive surgical and diagnostic techniques, such as VATS (video assisted thoroscopic surgery)
  • We offer innovative treatments and technology to bring you evidence-based treatments for the best possible outcome or cure.
  • Our comprehensive clinical research program offers opportunities to participate on trials investigating novel therapies.
  • We offer the most sophisticated radiation oncology treatments, including Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT)

Low-dose CT scanning is the most effective way to diagnose lung cancer in its early stages. A screening examination helps detect a disease before signs or symptoms. Recent research results suggest that a screening chest CT may enhance the early detection of lung cancer and improve survival.

A person who meets the following criteria is at risk of developing lung cancer and may benefit from this examination:

  • Is between 50-74 years of age, and
  • Has smoked at least 1 pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years, and
  • Currently smokes or has quit smoking for less than 15 years

The key to fighting lung cancer is early detection. This screening can help and is offered free of charge but you must have a referral from your primary care physician or pulmonologist to have this study.

For information call:

  • Danbury & New Milford Hospitals: 203-739-6906
  • Norwalk Hospital: 203-838-4886

Smoking Cessation Program

Smoking cessation program had available at both Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals.

  • Danbury Hospital’s Quit Now Smoking Cessation Program provides education and support to help you quit and support your long-term success. Several types of programs including group programs, individual counseling, corporate programs and support groups are available. Contact the Marianne Mitchell, APRN at the Pulmonary Department at 203-739-8328 for more information.
  • Norwalk Hospital: A free, six-week Smoking Cessation Program provides education and support throughout the quitting process. The program is provided twice a year. Patients participating in our lung cancer screening program may qualify for a free private smoking cessation program. Contact Beverly Jacoby in the Pulmonary Department at 203-852-2476 for more information.

Our lung cancer specialists have expertise in the use of advanced diagnostic techniques.  Your doctor may suggest one or a combination of these: 

  • CT scan - used to visualize organs within the chest, abdomen or pelvis though cross sectional imaging of the body using x-rays and a computer
  • PET scan - a form of 3-D imaging that provides more definitive information about cancerous tumors and other lesions located throughout the body
  • MRI - a type of imaging that uses a powerful magnet to provide detailed images

Biopsy procedure to obtain tissue for diagnosis:

  • Needle biopsy: Needle biopsy, also called image-guided biopsy, is usually performed using a moving x-ray technique (fluoroscopy) computed tomography (CT), ultrasound or magnetic resonance (MR) to guide the procedure.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS): A minimally invasive biopsy technique to sample the lymph nodes in your chest during bronchoscopy, under ultrasound guidance.
  • Navigational biopsy: Allows the interventional pulmonologist or thoracic surgeon to biopsy the lung lesion with the help of computerized mapping, trans-bronchially from inside the airway.
  • Mediastinoscopy: A procedure that enables visualization of the contents of the mediastinum, usually for the purpose of obtaining a biopsy.

Pathology

Our board certified pathologists and cytopathologists are specialists in the critical evaluation of and diagnosis of diseases. They work closely with the medical and surgical team in the diagnosis of cancer. Our accredited laboratory is committed to the latest and most trusted methods of testing to guarantee the accuracy and quality of each analysis for a cancer diagnosis in the shortest time possible.

  • Histopathology evaluation of all diagnostic and surgical specimens, including intraoperative consultation (frozen section) when appropriate.
  • Immunohistochemical (IHC) testing of cancer tissue.
  • Availability of comprehensive molecular testing of cancer tissue
  • Second pathologist review for every diagnosis

We offer a cancer treatment plan to bring you evidence-based treatments for the best possible outcome.

Lung Cancer

The goal of lung cancer surgery is removal of the cancerous mass. Surgery is utilized when the cancer is localized (or early stage) so that all malignant areas may be removed.

Here at WCHN, our thoracic oncology surgeons use minimally invasive thoracoscopic and robotic approaches whenever appropriate. This offers many advantages, including less pain, shorter length of stay in the hospital, fewer complications and faster healing and recovery. We offer advanced technology, including:

  • The da Vinci Surgical System: A robotic surgical platform that offers important advantages including superior visualization, greater precision and a lower rate of complications.>
  • Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS): A small camera is inserted into the chest with a scope, which assists in better visualization in hard-to-reach areas of the lungs and airways.>

Your surgeon will discuss with you the procedure he recommends for your specific lung cancer. Types of procedures our surgeons use include:

  • Wedge Resection: Removal of a non-anatomic portion of lung that contains the tumor, plus a margin of healthy tissue, but not the outer lobe.
  • Segmental Resection: Removing a larger anatomic portion of the lung, but not an entire lobe>
  • Lobectomy: Removing the entire lobe of one lung
  • Pneumonectomy: Removal of an entire lung on one side
  • Mediastinal lymph node dissection: Sampling of several lymph nodes to determine extent of cancer.

Systemic Therapy

The decision to use systemic therapy is based on many factors such as the stage of the lung cancer, genomic testing results and a patient’s overall condition.  Systemic therapies are drugs that go throughout the body to control, slow or cure your cancer. They include chemotherapy, targeted therapies and immunotherapy. Systemic therapy may be used alone or in combination with surgery or radiation.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy drugs are used to fight and kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy is associated with side effects but there are many medications today to help to reduce these and most patients manage well. Chemotherapy is sometimes given by intravenous infusion (an IV, through a vein in your arm or port) or it may be taken orally as a pill. Most patients have a series of treatments over several weeks or months, often including drug-free periods to allow your body to recover.

Chemotherapy can be used in several ways:

  • Prior to surgery, to shrink a tumor so it is easier to remove>
  • To decrease the risk of spread of cancer>
  • After surgery, to ensure that no cancer cells remain after the tumor has been removed>
  • As a palliative therapy, to reduce pain and other symptoms of advanced cancer.>
  • As maintenance therapy>

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapies work differently from standard chemotherapy. They are typically oral medications (pills) that work by “targeting” specific DNA abnormalities within the cancer cells.  The target is chosen after a thorough an analysis of a patient’s tumor specimen. Today there are a number of targeted agents used in the treatment of lung cancer. These are truly personalized cancer medicines.

Immunotherapy

A cancer treatment designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. We have participated in critical research leading to the approval of these medicines and continue to run clinical trials in this important area of cancer research.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, the precise and controlled use of radiation to kill cancer cells, can provide effective treatment for cancer. Here at WCHN, our highly skilled radiation oncologists use advanced technology that adapts to your breathing cycle, ensuring accuracy and protecting nearby tissue as high doses of radiation therapy are delivered to your cancer. Our techniques include:

External beam radiation

External beam radiation delivers a beam of high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells.  External beam radiation gets its name from the fact that the beams come from an external source (a machine called a linear accelerator) and are directed at the site of the tumor.

We offer several types of external beam radiation>:

  • Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT)
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • 3D conformal radiation therapy
  • Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) – single or multiple radiation beams sweep around the patient, greatly reducing treatment time compared to conventional radiation treatment.
  • Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT)

Interventional Radiology Treatments

Interventional radiologists are board-certified physicians who specialize in minimally invasive, targeted treatments delivered in the radiology suite.  They may be used in the treatment of lung and include:

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

RFA is a precise non-surgical treatment that uses heat to eradicate cancer cells, minimizing risk to nearby healthy tissue. Radiofrequency energy offers safe, minimally invasive treatment for lung cancer with few, if any, side effects. Because this type of treatment is precise and localized, it doesn’t affect your overall health. Most patients are able to get quickly back to their normal lives.

Cryoablation

Cryoablation is similar to RFA in that the energy is delivered directly into the tumor by a probe inserted through the skin. But rather than killing the tumor with heat, cryoablation uses an extremely cold gas to freeze it.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new methods or drugs to treat cancer or procedures to diagnosis or screen for cancer. Participation is always voluntary. WCHN’s research program is part of a premier regional cancer network that includes Danbury, New Milford and Norwalk Hospitals. Clinical trials at WCHN come from a wide variety of sources, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pharmaceutical companies, nearby university cancer centers, as well as well as those developed at the WCHN.  Our goal is to offer you the most promising emerging treatments available.

We offer many supportive services to help with the questions and concerns that may arise during treatment, and beyond, in your life as a survivor of cancer.

Navigation - Cancer treatment can be complex, but we’re here to help. To ensure that your needs are met, we’ll connect you to a special team of navigators focused on helping you through your treatment experience. Though our entire staff is available for questions and guidance, we also have dedicated navigators with specific areas of specialization.

Oncology Nurse Navigator - Our nurse navigators will meet with you to provide information and emotional support, help you understand treatment options or assist with scheduling and coordination of your medical tests or appointments.

Oncology Financial Navigators - We offer financial counseling for all patients (insured and uninsured). Their role is to provide information on treatment costs and insurance benefits and help connect you to resources that may help cover or subsidize costs for treatment and cancer medications.

Integrative Medicine - We offer a wide array of complementary programs to promote healing and relaxation, help reduce unpleasant side effects and contribute to overall well-being. We believe in holistic cancer treatment, using complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, massage, and reflexology.

Nutritional Counseling - Our dietitian can provide support and guidance on nutrition during treatment and in managing sensory changes in taste along other side effects that alter nutritional intake.

Support Groups - We offer an ongoing calendar of community support groups and educational programs for you and family members, with programs for people who are newly diagnosed, in treatment and living as survivors of cancer. Danbury Hospital works collaboratively with Ann’s Place (link here to events), a cancer community support center that offers support groups, classes, and social support services to those who need additional assistance.

Spiritual Care - With sensitivity to every patient’s beliefs, needs and desires, our specially trained oncology chaplains are available for supportive listening, patient advocacy and counseling for you and your family members.

Palliative Care - The Western Connecticut Health Network is the first in the state to have offered a JCAHO-accredited palliative care program at Danbury Hospital. Pain and other symptoms are not only uncomfortable, but also can present a barrier to treatment. That’s why symptom management is a key part of our palliative care program. Please make sure to communicate with us about what pain you or your loved one may be feeling; we have many therapies and treatments to offer.

Physical Therapy/Rehabilitation - Our occupational therapists have expertise in treating lymphedema and other complications from axillary surgery. With the goal of helping every patient achieve as close to normal function as possible, we offer the full array of rehabilitation.

To find more information on the team or to speak with a cancer specialist, call:

  • 860-210-5300: WCHN The Diebold Family Cancer Center at New Milford Hospital
  • 203-852-2148: WCHN Whittingham Cancer Center at Norwalk Hospital

For additional resources, please visit:

Our expert lung cancer team includes thoracic surgeons, medical oncologist, radiation oncologists, pulmonologists, oncology nurses, nurse navigators, radiation therapists, oncology social workers and therapists. The many caregivers you’ll meet during the course of treatment are highly trained and fully dedicated to providing excellent treatment in a warm and personalized manner.