Lung Cancer Program

The Lung Cancer Program in Mass General's Division of Thoracic Surgery provides comprehensive, innovative treatment for lung cancer.

Call to request an appointment of refer a patient: 617-726-6826


Multidisciplinary Patient Care

We were among the first to create a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology clinic. Our team approach ensures that each patient benefits from an individualized, coordinated treatment plan involving thoracic oncology experts from a wide array of specialties, including:

  • Thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists
  • Radiologists and pathologists
  • Nurse practitioners and oncology nurses
  • Respiratory therapists and physical therapists
  • Social workers and caseworkers, all of whom work exclusively to treat patients with thoracic cancers

Our clinicians work together with the patient and his or her primary care physician to create a coordinated treatment plan for all aspects of care. We work with the patient and their referring physician throughout treatment to ensure the best possible outcome.

We also offer a wide range of free educational programs and support services designed to address the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of patients and their families.

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Thoracic Cancers

Our diagnostic and interventional radiologists, surgeons, endoscopists and pathologists are highly specialized. They have unique experience in safely and rapidly diagnosing and staging thoracic cancers. This expert analysis helps each patient’s doctors to tailor an individualized treatment plan. The plan is made on the day of the multidisciplinary visit to determine the best therapy for each patient. Appointments are usually scheduled within one week.

Imaging Techniques

We use the most advanced diagnostic imaging tools, including:

  • Standard CT, MRI, PET and nuclear medicine scans
  • PET/CT fusion scans
  • Percutaneous needle aspiration and core biopsies
  • Molecular diagnostic tests and electron microscopy

Diagnostic Procedures

We offer a number of minimally-invasive endoscopic procedures to aid in diagnosing thoracic malignancies, such as:

  • Bronchoscopy to explore the bronchial passages
  • Esophagoscopy to explore the esophagus
  • Mediastinoscopy to explore the area between the lungs and nearby lymph nodes
  • Thoracoscopy to explore the thorax
  • Esophageal endoscopic ultrasound
  • Endobronchial ultrasound
  • Electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy


All thoracic specimens are reviewed by pathologists specializing in thoracic pathology. Our pathologists are recognized for their expertise in thoracic pathology, including cancers and mesotheliomas, particularly diffuse malignant mesotheliomas in connection with asbestos-related lung disease. They lecture internationally and receive requests for consultations from around the world.

Comprehensive Treatment Options

For those thoracic cancer patients whose treatment will involve surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, or some combination of all three therapies, our integrated approach offers a unique combination of multidisciplinary care and the most advanced medical, surgical, and radiation therapies.

Our leading-edge medical therapies include:

  • Bioimagery, an advanced molecular imaging approach used to identify tumor margins following primary chemotherapy, which informs decisions about surgery
  • Image-guided, minimally invasive interventions that offer an alternative to major surgery
  • Minimally invasive radiofrequency ablation for patients for whom surgery is not appropriate


Consultations can also be obtained via the Center for Thoracic Cancers at the Mass General Cancer Center. The lung cancer research program, supported by Mass General thoracic surgery, is a multifaceted effort designed to understand thoracic cancer biology, discover novel agents, and improve treatment.

Of the two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer, NSCLC is more common and spreads to different parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma are three types of non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer accounts for about 20% of all lung cancer.

Surgery is advised for patients with non-small cell lung cancer that has not spread outside the lung. Some patients with more advanced lung cancer are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Mass General thoracic surgeons perform the following resections for lung cancer:

  • Minimally invasive pulmonary resections such as lobectomy, segmentectomy and wedge resections
  • Sleeve lobectomy
  • Pneumonectomy
  • Carinal resection, carinal pneumonectomy
  • Tracheal resection
  • Resection of superior sulcus tumors or chest wall tumors
  • Tumors involving the superior vena cava or the left atrium

Conditions We Treat

About this Program

We have a rich history of clinical innovation in the treatment of thoracic disease — especially the care of lung and esophageal cancers — dating back to the 1930s. Our program provides advanced treatment for cancers involving:

  • Lung
  • Trachea
  • Chest wall
  • Mesothelioma (lining of the lung and chest wall)

Innovative Approaches to Cancer Treatment

Our program is a national leader in the treatment of thoracic cancers. We were the first to pioneer several of the surgical procedures and radiation therapies used to treat these cancers, and we continue to advance the field of cancer medicine with new techniques and research. We treat thousands of patients annually, and studies show that such high-volume experience results in improved patient outcomes.

Specialization also improves outcomes. Among our highly specialized services is the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center. It is the Northeast’s only proton radiation facility, offering precisely-targeted radiation that eliminates tumors while reducing damage to healthy tissue. This therapy may be used for patients with certain thoracic cancers.

Striving for Better Therapies

We offer patients a multifaceted, individualized approach to care, including:

  • A personalized treatment plan created and coordinated by a team of specialists in thoracic oncology
  • Sophisticated and timely diagnostics
  • Access to the most advanced surgical, radiation, and medical therapies
  • Specialized nursing care and support services for patients and families

Novel Cancer Treatments through Clinical Trials

We are one of the nation’s foremost centers for research on thoracic cancers. Access to the latest research allows us to bring promising new treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Some of our current trials include:

  • Novel therapeutics that inhibit epidermal growth factor receptor, a molecule on a tumor cell membrane that magnifies tumor growth
  • "Smart drugs" that limit tumor cell growth and that can be tailored for individualized treatment for each patient
  • Using gene therapy to improve the treatment of advanced lung and esophageal cancer
  • Enhancing standard chemotherapy by modifying chemotherapy resistance
  • Research into the genetics of lung and esophageal cancers in families to explore how genetic differences affect treatment

Patient Outcomes

At Mass General, we believe it's important to provide safe and effective care. The Department of Surgery tracks many performance measures and compares them to national data. On the following pages, you can view some of these metrics.

Major Lung Procedure Case Volumes

Major Lung Procedure Case Volumes
See how Mass General’s major lung procedure case volumes compare to the national average.

Pulmonary Resection Outcomes

Pulmonary Resection Outcomes
Learn how Mass General's pulmonary resection outcomes compare to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons norms.                                     

Patient Ratings of Thoracic Surgeons
3 charts

Lobectomy for Lung Cancer Outcomes
Learn more about the benefits and risks of lobectomy for lung cancer surgery.                                      

Patient Ratings of Thoracic Surgeons

Patient Ratings of Thoracic Surgeons
See how Mass General’s thoracic surgery patients rate their doctors.                                      

Patient Education

  • Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center

    The Maxwell V. Blum Cancer Resource Center is a program that offers a range of support resources around the Cancer Center. The center has an ongoing mission to make support services, as well as respite and community-building areas, more accessible to patients and families throughout the Cancer Center.

  • Oncology Chaplaincy

    Our oncology chaplain is familiar with the unique needs of those with cancer.


  • Mass General Imaging introduces CT lung-cancer screening - 8/11/2011, Clinical

    Research shows a clear benefit for CT lung-cancer screening among individuals who meet strict criteria. Patients and referrers should understand both the benefit and the potential for false positive results.


  • Cancer Breakthroughs

    Cancer Breakthroughs

    Research at Mass General leads to breakthroughs in cancer treatment and prevention.

  • Alice Shaw, MD, explains why patients with lung cancer can benefit from genetic testing

    Alice Shaw, MD, explains why patients with lung cancer can benefit from genetic testing

    Alice Shaw, MD, thoracic oncologist at the Mass General Cancer Center, says patients with lung cancer can benefit from genetic testing, particularly if they are young non-smokers. Learn more about personalized treatment for lung cancer and new "smart drugs" that target a tumor's specific genetic mutation to slow the cancer's growth, and in some cases, reduce it significantly.

  • Bill Schuette

    Bill Schuette's Story

    Watch Bill Schuette tell the story of why he drove 18 hours each way from Ohio for lung cancer treatment at the Mass General Cancer Center.

  • Are you or someone you love eligible for lung screening?

    Lung Screening Eligibility

    Patients who meet specific criteria are eligible for an annual low-dose CT scan (LDCT) to screen for lung cancer. If lung cancer can be detected at earlier stages, it has the best chance of being cured.


Contact Us

Division of Thoracic Surgery

Founders 755 Fruit Street Boston, MA 02114
  • Phone: 617-726-6826

Call to request an appointment of refer a patient: 617-726-6826

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