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About Thoracic Cancer

Making a Difference for Patients with Thoracic and Lung Cancer

At the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, thoracic cancer patients receive comprehensive cancer care from board-certified physicians using a variety of advanced technologies and therapies. Our multi-disciplinary team of doctors, nurses and support staff focus on providing top-notch, compassionate care.

Fast Facts

Thoracic cancer is cancer of the lungs or chest region. Our team of physicians provides expert care in all types of thoracic cancer, including lung, esophageal, thymus, and mesothelioma. Lung cancer is the most common type of thoracic cancer, making it the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. At the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, we’re working to improve the prognosis of lung cancer patients through innovative diagnostics, treatment options and research.


In early stages, lung cancer may not exhibit any symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include shortness of breath, persistent cough/wheezing, hoarseness, bone pain, fatigue and loss of appetite and weight. Patients with other types of thoracic cancer, such as thymus, may experience similar symptoms. Patients with esophageal cancer may also experience difficulty swallowing or extensive heartburn. Patients who smoke, have a high-risk health history and/or have these symptoms should talk with their doctors about thoracic cancer and lung cancer screenings.

Diagnosis and Staging

Early and accurate diagnosis and staging of lung and other types of thoracic cancer is critical to treating the diseases effectively. At the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, we use the latest technologies to accomplish this, including Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and high- resolution Computed-Tomography (CT) scans.


Thoracic cancers, particularly lung cancer, can be challenging to treat. Our team of thoracic cancer specialists; medical, radiation and surgical oncologists; and support staff will work with you to determine what treatment protocol is best for your health. The Florida Hospital Cancer Institute uses the most-advanced invasive and less-invasive treatment options to fight thoracic cancers. They include traditional and less-invasive surgery, Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), Stereostatic Radiation Therapy and various types of chemotherapy.

Thoracic Cancer FAQs

Thoracic Cancer FAQ

What is thoracic cancer?

Thoracic cancer includes many different types of cancer that involve the thorax, or chest region. Lung cancer, the most common type, is the number one cancer killer for both men and women in the United States. However, our team of thoracic cancer experts is trained in all types of thoracic cancer care.

What is lung cancer?

Generally, cancer of any type occurs when abnormal cells in the body grow at an abnormal rate. Cancer is typically named after the organ where it originates, so in the case of lung cancer, abnormal cells in the lungs quickly reproduce and form tumors. The tumors disrupt the lung’s ability to function normally.

Each year, more than 215,000 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. In Florida in 2008, lung cancer and bronchus cancer were the most frequently reported cancers, with nearly 17,400 cases diagnosed.

At the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute, we’re working to improve the prognosis of lung cancer patients through innovative diagnostics, treatment options and research.

How does lung cancer develop?

When cells in the lung grow and spread in an uncontrolled fashion, lung cancer has developed. Generally, lung cancer begins in one lung and then travels through lymph and blood vessels to the lymph nodes and other tissues. Lung cancer can also spread or “metastasize” throughout the body to the brain, liver, bones and other organs including the opposite lung. The cause of lung cancer can often be traced to smoking or exposure to environmental hazards like radon or asbestos, but in some cases, the reason for the abnormal cell development is not known. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung carcinoma (cancer) and small cell lung carcinoma (cancer).

What is small cell lung cancer?

Lung cancer is classified into two categories, with small cell lung cancer being the less common of the two and accounting for approximately 15 to 20 percent of lung cancer cases. Small cell lung cancer is sometimes called “oat cell cancer” or "small cell undifferentiated carcinoma.” While the cancer cells themselves are small, this type of cancer develops rapidly and is capable of quickly spreading to the lymph nodes and other organs. Small cell lung cancer is almost always caused by smoking.

What is non-small cell lung cancer?

The second of the two lung cancer categories, non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type and accounts for approximately 75 to 80 percent of cases. This type of lung cancer is subdivided into three types:

What other types of tumors can develop in the lungs?

Other less common non-cancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) tumors can occur in the lungs. Carcinoid tumors, for example, grow slowly and are generally cured with surgery. Mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, can grow on the surface of the lungs or chest wall.

What is metastatic lung cancer?
When cancer spreads to other organs and regions of the body, it’s said to “metastasize.” When any cancer travels to different organs, it is still classified by original cancer type, so for example, a patient with lung cancer that travels to the brain and forms a brain tumor is diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer.
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?

By far, the biggest risk factor for lung cancer is smoking. While approximately eight out of 10 lung cancers are related to smoking, not all smokers develop lung cancer. Still, smoking is not generally a risk worth taking.

In addition to smokers, the following individuals are at risk for developing lung cancer:

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

In its earliest stages, lung cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms, but early- and later-stage lung cancer symptoms can include:

When symptoms are present and you have a high-risk medical history that includes long-term exposure to cigarette smoke, an appointment should be made with a doctor to discuss lung cancer screening. In addition, if you do not have any apparent symptoms but you have a long history of smoking and/or other risk factors, you should speak with your physician about early screening.

Can I protect myself from lung cancer?

If you smoke, quit. Florida Hospital offers support groups for smokers who want to quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. In addition, limit your exposure to second-hand smoke and other environmental hazards, such as asbestos and radon.

I’ve smoked for many years. Why should I bother to quit now?

It’s never too late to quit smoking and enjoy the benefits of quitting. Some benefits, like improved breath and taste sensations, will be evident rather quickly. But most importantly, after 15 years off cigarettes, the risk of death for ex-smokers returns to nearly the level of persons who have never smoked. In addition, unless you smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day for 20 years or more, your risk of lung cancer is cut in half after only five years of not smoking!