Lung cancer

Learning you have lung cancer is scary. But advances in cancer detection and more targeted therapies have brought hope to those living with this disease.

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center offers personalized care and the latest advances to treat many kinds of lung cancer. These include small and non-small cell lung cancer, mesothelioma and bronchioalveolar carcinoma.

Whether you come to us for cancer treatment or for a second opinion, you can count on your team.

Experience counts

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center lung cancer team has the expertise that comes with experience.

We treat more than 400 patients with a lung cancer diagnosis
We have more than 60 active lung cancer clinical trials

UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center

The experts at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center intimately understand every type of cancer. We will get to know you and design a treatment plan that works for you and your family.

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Symptoms and diagnosis

Diagnosing lung cancer

Symptoms of lung cancer are different at all stages of the disease. In early-stage lung cancer, you may have no symptoms. If your lung cancer has progressed, you may notice:

  • A cough (with or without blood)

  • Chest pain

  • Hoarseness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Shortness of breath

  • Tiredness

  • Weight loss

  • Wheezing

 If lung cancer spreads to other parts of your body, it can cause:

  • Arm or leg weakness

  • Balance problems

  • Bone pain

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)

  • Seizures

  • Swollen lymph nodes

Doctors use imaging tests and procedures to diagnose lung cancer. Imaging tests — like CT scans and PET scans — take pictures of your lungs. These pictures help your doctors find lung cancer.

Special surgical procedures give doctors a closer look at your lung tissue. In some cases, these procedures are used to remove tissue for testing. This is called a biopsy. Surgical procedures help doctors determine the stage of your cancer, or how far it has spread.

Advanced diagnostic procedures

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center offers the most advanced procedures for diagnosing lung cancer, including:

During this procedure, either a CT scan or an ultrasound takes an image of your lungs. This image helps your doctor find suspected cancer cells. These cells are removed with a long, thin needle for testing.

This test helps your doctor determine if your cancer has spread. During this test, a scope is guided through your mouth and into your windpipe. The scope takes images of your lymph nodes and other parts of your body in and around your lungs.

This surgical procedure can determine the stage of your cancer. During a mediastinoscopy, your surgeon makes a small incision below your neck. A scope is inserted into the incision to reach the area behind your breastbone. Your surgeon uses the scope to move surgical tools to collect lymph node tissue for testing.

This test is a minimally invasive way for doctors to view and biopsy suspicious lung tissue. During a robotic assisted navigational bronchoscopy, an ultrathin catheter passes through your airway to the area of abnormal lung tissue where your doctor can collect tissue for biopsy and testing.

Treatments and research

Targeted treatment options

Your treatment will depend on the type of lung cancer you have. The size of the cancer and how far it has spread will also affect your treatment options.

Lung cancer treatment options include medication therapy, radiation and surgery.

Medication treatments for lung cancer include chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Chemotherapy kills cancer cells. Targeted therapy makes cancer cells grow more slowly. We also offer the latest advances in immunotherapy — medication treatment that uses your immune system to fight your cancer and have improve the outcome for many patients with lung cancer.

Radiation therapy kills cancer cells with radiation. Tomotherapy, developed here at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center, is one type of radiation therapy for lung cancer. Tomotherapy works by creating a 3D image of your tumor. Doctors use the image to deliver radiation directly to your cancer. As a result, there is less damage to your healthy tissue.

MRI-guided radiation therapy is another radiation therapy used at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center. This is one of the most recent technology advancements in radiation oncology, using a unique combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and radiotherapy technologies.

With this MRI-guided radiation therapy, physicians have greater control over the daily radiation prescriptions because they are able to see the patient's internal anatomy and adapt to movements that could occur during the actual treatment delivery.

For some people with lung cancer, surgery is the best treatment. There are three main types of lung cancer surgery:

  • Wedge resection: Removal of a small part or “wedge” of the lung

  • Lobectomy: Removal of an entire lobe or a portion of the lung

  • Pneumonectomy: Removal of the whole lung

Whenever possible, we offer minimally invasive surgery. With minimally invasive surgery, your incisions are smaller and you recover faster.

Robotic-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS) is one type of minimally invasive surgery. During this procedure, your surgeon makes small incisions between your ribs. They then insert a 3D camera and small robotic instruments into your chest cavity in order to remove a part of your lung.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy is another type of minimally invasive surgery. During this procedure, your surgeon makes a small incision between your ribs. They then insert a camera, giving them a view of your chest cavity. Your surgeon makes another small incision used to guide surgical tools and remove part of your lung.

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center offers a combined surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment for lung cancer. This treatment is called VATS wedge resection with brachytherapy. This treatment combines minimally invasive surgery with a special type of radiation treatment.

Another unique combination therapy offered at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center is photodynamic therapy (PDT). During this two-step treatment, you receive a special light-activated drug. The drug moves to your cancer cells and stays there. Your doctor then uses a tube called a bronchoscope to position a laser near your cancer. The light from the laser is absorbed by the drug within your cancer cells, causing them to die.

Some patients benefit from experimental treatments for cancer. Experimental treatments are offered through clinical trials. At the UW Carbone Cancer Center, patients have access to more than 250 cancer clinical trials. For lung cancer alone, we offer more than 60 trials of new medications and therapies.

Tests and prevention

Lung cancer screening

We offer lung cancer screening for people at high risk of developing lung cancer. Our lung cancer screening program requires that you:

  • Be between the ages of 50 and 80 years old

  • Be a current smoker who has smoked at least one pack per day for 20 years or more, or a former smoker who has smoked at least one pack per day for 20 years or more but quit fewer than 15 years ago.

  • Exhibit no current symptoms of lung cancer

To schedule a free, 15-minute telehealth consult, call (608) 890-5600.

Our team will help determine if you are a good candidate for a low-dose CT scan and assist you in scheduling this appointment following your consult.

UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center Rockford

Offering a wide range of outpatient services at one convenient location, UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center Rockford brings cancer expertise close to home.

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Meet our team

A team dedicated to you

There’s more to you than a cancer diagnosis. We never stop looking for ways to help you get back to being you. Our lung cancer team includes:

  • Genetic counselors

  • Integrative medicine physicians

  • Interventional pulmonologists

  • Medical oncologists

  • Nutritionists

  • Palliative care professionals

  • Pathologists

  • Psychologists

  • Radiation oncologists

  • Social workers

  • Thoracic surgeons

Medical oncology
Radiation oncology
Pulmonary and critical care medicine
Cardiothoracic surgery


Care close to home

The UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center provides care throughout Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Not all cancers are treated at every location; however, we will make every effort to connect you with care at a location convenient to you.

Patient and support services

Resources you can use

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, you and your loved ones may need extra support. Patients and families at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center have access to many resources and support services.

The Lung Cancer Support Group, offered through Gilda’s Club, is for anyone affected by lung cancer. The group meets the second Thursday of each month at:

Gilda’s Club
7908 UW Health Court
Middleton, WI 53562

For more information, call (608) 828-8880

Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer. The University of Wisconsin is home to the nationally recognized Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI). Tobacco research from UW-CTRI is translated into treatment for people who want to quit smoking.

Learn more about UW-CTRI

Online resources

UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center patient guide

To help you feel comfortable during your stay, we invite you to learn about our facility and the services we offer.

View the guide