There are many types of doctors involved in diagnosing and treating lung cancer. Your primary care doctor may refer you to various specialists. Here are some of the specialists you may meet, and the roles they play in lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.
A pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the lungs, such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and tuberculosis.
With cancer, a pulmonologist aids in diagnosis and treatment. They’re also known as pulmonary specialists.
When to see a pulmonologist
Your primary care doctor may recommend seeing a pulmonologist if you have a cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks, or if your cough becomes more severe over time.
A pulmonologist can help you manage the following symptoms:
- dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain
- chest tightness
- chronic bronchitis
An oncologist will help you set up a treatment plan after a cancer diagnosis. There are three different specialties in oncology:
- Radiation oncologists use therapeutic radiation to treat cancer.
- Medical oncologists specialize in using drugs, such as chemotherapy, to treat cancer.
- Surgical oncologists handle the surgical portions of cancer treatment, such as removal of tumors and affected tissue.
These doctors specialize in surgery of the chest (thorax). They perform operations on the throat, lungs, and heart. These surgeons are often grouped with cardiac surgeons.
When to see a thoracic surgeon
Depending on the location and stage of your lung cancer, surgery may be a good treatment option. Your oncologist will recommend a thoracic surgeon if he or she believes you could be a good candidate for surgery. The types of surgery include:
- Wedge resection: This surgery removes a wedge-shaped piece of your lung. The wedge should include both cancerous and some healthy tissue.
- Segmentectomy: This surgery removes one segment of a lung.
- Lobectomy: A lobectomyremoves the cancerous lobe of your lung.
- Bilobectomy: In this surgery, two lobes of the lung removed.
- Pneumonectomy: A pneumonectomy removes an entire lung.
- Extrapleural pneumonectomy: This surgeryis the most extensive option. It removes a lung, the lining of your lungs and heart (pleura), and part of your diaphragm.
- Sleeve resection: This procedure is used for non-small cell lung cancer and removes a lobe of the lung and some of the surrounding bronchi.
No matter which doctor you see, preparation before your appointment can help you make the most of your time. Make a list of all your symptoms, even if you don’t know if they directly relate to your condition.
Ask your doctor for any special instructions before your appointment, such as fasting for a blood test. Ask a friend or family member to go with you to help you recall the details of your visit.
You should also bring a list of any questions, such as:
- Are there different kinds of lung cancer? Which kind do I have?
- What other tests will I need?
- What stage of cancer do I have?
- Will you show me my X-rays and explain them to me?
- What treatment options are available to me? What are the side effects of the treatments?
- How much does treatment cost?
- What would you tell a friend or relative in my condition?
- How can you help me with my symptoms?
Visit your doctor if you believe you’re experiencing symptoms of lung cancer. New and effective treatments are constantly being researched, and your doctors can help guide you towards the best treatment for you.