Lung cancer early detection and prevention
The Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic (LCEDPC) at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) sees patients with abnormal lung findings. These include lung nodules (“spots” on the lung) found in routine imaging — like chest X-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans — or in lung cancer screening CTs. Up to 25 percent of patients may have abnormalities found through lung imaging; however, most of these are not lung cancer.
If the findings are lung cancer, we will guide you through the diagnosis and treatment process. The best success against lung cancer is early diagnosis and treatment, when survival rates can be greater than 80 percent.
Our team includes pulmonologists, chest radiologists, chest surgeons and other lung cancer experts, all here to help you move forward.
The Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic has expertise in the management of lung nodules and other abnormalities. For patients who have lung nodules, we provide multidisciplinary guidance and access to the latest technology for diagnosis with advanced bronchoscopy techniques (inserting a tube through your nose or mouth), including endobronchial ultrasound-guided biopsy (EBUS) and electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy.
For patients at high risk of lung cancer, we also offer lung cancer screening using state-of-the-art imaging technologies based on the latest national guidelines. During your visit, you will meet with our dedicated providers, who will help make the best plan for you. And, if appropriate, we can call on other medical specialists from throughout SCCA to offer their expertise surrounding your care.
If you smoke, we have access to resources that can help you quit and adopt a healthier lifestyle, which helps improve your overall health. We are proud to be a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Cessation Initiative-awarded site, which means we are national leaders when it comes to smoking cessation.
We work with people like you who have been referred to us by their primary care physician or by another medical provider — often from within SCCA, the University of Washington Medical Center or other medical systems in the Seattle area. Or, if you have concerns or believe you may benefit from seeing our providers, you can contact us directly.
You may need the services of our clinic if:
- You have recently been told that you have a pulmonary nodule, a lung mass or enlarged lymph nodes around your lungs, which might be signs of lung cancer or other serious disease.
- You have been told that you may qualify for lung cancer screening and would like to discuss this with an expert provider.
- You would like to discuss your risk of lung cancer.
- You had a lung cancer screening CT that shows abnormalities
Most patients who visit our clinic have what is known as a pulmonary nodule — a small, round growth on the lung. Most pulmonary nodules are too small (less than one centimeter across) to be diagnosed safely and accurately using any of the procedures or tests currently available. Because these very small pulmonary nodules might mean early lung cancer, they need to be watched closely, using CT scans, to see whether they grow over time. If the size of these nodules doesn’t change for two years, the chance that they are lung cancer is very small.
If a repeat scan shows that the nodule is growing, we might schedule you for a type of imaging test called a positron emission tomography (PET) scan and/or take a sample (biopsy) of the nodule to check for cancer cells.
What happens at your visit
Before your visit, a pulmonologist and a chest radiologist will review your medical records, including X-rays or imaging scans, if you have been diagnosed with a pulmonary nodule or another abnormality that might be a sign of lung cancer.
When you visit, you’ll meet with members of our clinic team, including a pulmonologist. We’ll discuss your results and work with you to build a personalized prevention plan. Your appointment will last about one to two hours.
- Strategies to lower your lung cancer risk
- Information about clinical trials you are eligible to participate in through SCCA and our partners at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and UW Medicine
- Schedules for when you should have imaging and/or diagnostic tests
Here are some examples of strategies that may be part of your personalized prevention plan.
To monitor for lung cancer:
- Regular low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans
If you need a biopsy:
- Navigational bronchoscopy
- Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS)
- Needle biopsy
If you need help quitting tobacco:
- Referral to SCCA’s Living Tobacco-Free Services
If we make a diagnosis other than lung cancer, we may refer you back to your primary care provider for treatment; our Living Tobacco-Free Services program for help with quitting smoking; or surveillance (ongoing monitoring) at the Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic. You may also be able to participate in lung cancer early-detection studies and help us discover better ways to find lung cancer earlier.
If your screening has an abnormality, we will decide the best approach to determine if you have lung cancer and quickly diagnose and stage the disease. Then you can move on to planning your lung cancer treatment with SCCA’s team of world-class physicians, including specialists in pulmonary medicine, thoracic surgery, medical oncology and radiation oncology. You will have access to the full spectrum of lung cancer treatment options, including innovative therapies available in clinical studies.
The Lung Cancer Early Detection and Prevention Clinic team is made up of experts from a variety of specialties within SCCA.
A pulmonologist is a physician who specializes in preventing and treating lung cancer and other respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This physician reads and interprets your imaging tests. They also do some types of biopsies. Your chest radiologist will:
- Look for abnormal areas on images from tests like CT scans and X-rays.
- “Decode” the meaning of your images and recommend whether you should have more imaging, a biopsy or other care.
- Do a biopsy, often guided by an X-ray or ultrasound.
Your nurse manages your care alongside your physician. They also assist with procedures and treatments. Nurses are resources for you and your caregiver. They can answer questions and help with a wide range of topics, like how to cope with side effects or how to get other services you need at SCCA.
Find care team profiles
Meet the caring, dedicated people who take care of you and your family at SCCA.