Lung Cancer Program

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

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


The Lung Cancer program at the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Thoracic Surgery employs a variety of minimally-invasive and advanced surgical approaches, including video-assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS) to treat lung cancer.

The Division of Thoracic Surgery has board-certified thoracic surgeons with decades of experience to treat patients with all stages of lung cancer. We create an individualized treatment approach for each patient and often work together with physicians from other medical specialties to treat the most challenging patients and conditions.

Expertise in Diagnosing and Staging Thoracic Cancers

Our surgeons, oncologists, radiologists 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. Mass General has one of the most experienced programs in the world treating lung cancers with genetic mutations. Appointments are usually scheduled within one week.

Imaging Techniques

We use the most advanced diagnostic imaging tools, including:

  • Dual-energy cat-scan (CT), MRI, PET and nuclear medicine scans
  • Percutaneous CT guided needle aspiration and core biopsies
  • Molecular diagnostic tests (genetic and mutational analysis)
  • CT guided fiducial placement for resection of ground-glass nodules
  • A robust and leading multi-disciplinary lung cancer screening program

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 middle of the chest, the area between the lungs, generally to biopsy lymph nodes
  • Video-assisted thorascopic surgery (VATS) to examine and biopsy the mediastinum, pleura (lining of the chest) and lungs
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) to biopsy lymph nodes next to the bronchial passages, avoiding the need for incisions or mediastinoscopy
  • Electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy to biopsy lung nodules or masses that are in the periphery, avoiding the need to introduce needles through the chest


All thoracic specimens are reviewed by pathologists specializing in thoracic pathology. Our pathologists are recognized for their expertise in thoracic pathology, including lung cancers and mesotheliomas. They lecture internationally and receive requests for consultations from around the world. They are expert in preparing and processing specimens for complex genetic and mutational analysis.

Comprehensive Treatment Options

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

Our leading-edge medical therapies include:

  • Image guided minimally invasive radiofrequency (RFA), microwave, or cryo- ablation for patients for whom major surgery is not appropriate nor desired

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

  • Minimally invasive pulmonary resections such as lobectomy, segmentectomy and wedge resections (VATS or robotic surgery is performed whenever possible and appropriate)

  • Sleeve lobectomy: a specialized and advanced technique to remove central lung cancers that saves lung tissue and avoids pneumonectomy (removal of the entire lung)

  • Pneumonectomy: some cancers are so extensive, large or central that the entire lung must be removed. Sophisticated anesthetic and critical care is utilized to ensure the best outcomes after this significant operation

  • Carinal resection: a specialized technique to remove cancer that involves the part of the airway that marks the start of both lungs. This requires a complex reconstruction to restore airway continuity

  • Tracheal resection: tumors of the airway such as adenoid cystic carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and mucoepidermoid cancer are resected and the trachea is reconstructed. There is a long tradition of airway surgery at Mass General that ensures the most expert evaluation and management of these rare tumors.

  • Resection of superior sulcus tumor (Pancoast’s tumor) and other advanced lung cancers involving the chest wall, great vessels, spine, and heart: advanced techniques and occasionally collaborative surgery with expert orthopedists, neurosurgeons, and cardiac surgeons to remove lung cancers that are invading adjacent structures.

  • Pulmonary metastasectomy: resection of cancers, such as sarcoma or colorectal cancer, that have spread to the lung.

Conditions We Treat


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.

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. The first anatomic segmentectomy for lung cancer was reported by Dr. Churchill in 1939. Our program provides advanced treatment for cancers involving:

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

Multidisciplinary Patient Care

Massachusetts General Hospital is 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.

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, and targeted 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
  • Immunotherapy to treat advanced or recurrent lung 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.                                      

Conditions & Diseases

  • Lung Cancer

    Lung cancer is cancer that usually starts in the lining of the bronchi (the main airways of the lungs), but can also begin in other areas of the respiratory system, including the trachea, bronchioles, or alveoli.

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 or refer a patient: 617-726-6826

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