Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a complex disease. At UC San Diego Health, you receive advanced personalized care to improve your well-being and extend your life.

Nationally Ranked Care

UC San Diego Health is repeatedly ranked among the nation's best in both cancer care and pulmonology by U.S. News & World Report. We are also the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Diego County. This is the highest possible rating for a U.S. cancer center, and it means you’ll receive the best possible care and support. Studies show patient outcomes are better at NCI-designated cancer centers. Our thoracic cancer team also cares for more patients with lung and other thoracic cancers than any other San Diego health care system.

Types of Lung Cancer We Treat

Your UC San Diego Health care team treats all types and stages of lung cancer, including:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer, including adenocarcinoma, adenosquamous carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, sarcomatoid carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma
  • Small cell lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Less common lung cancers such as carcinoid tumors 

Diagnosing Lung Cancer 

Your care begins with an accurate and timely diagnosis of your lung cancer.

You will likely have a CT scan of your lungs to screen for abnormalities. If a suspicious area is found, your UC San Diego Health doctor may order an endobronchial ultrasound bronchoscopy (EBUS) or electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy (ENB). These are non-surgical alternatives to conventional mediastinoscopy, which requires a small incision in the chest. Both can be used to diagnose and stage lung cancer. 

If you are a current or former smoker, you may receive specialized screenings through our Lung Cancer Screening Program.

Comprehensive, Personalized Treatments for Lung Cancer

Feel confident you’ll receive a personalized, comprehensive care plan that fits your needs and supports you and your family throughout your journey. Your treatment may include one or a combination of the following approaches.


If your cancer has not spread beyond the lung, surgery is frequently the first choice of treatment to remove cancer. A variety of techniques may be used, depending on the size of your tumor, its location and your overall health. One option is video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), in which the surgeon uses a video camera to help visualize and operate on the lung. This results in smaller surgical incisions than those required for other forms of surgery. 

Radiation Therapy

At UC San Diego Health, lung cancers are increasingly being treated with newer, sophisticated radiation therapies, such as stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT). SBRT can improve outcomes with fewer side effects and has emerged as the new standard therapy for early-stage lung cancer patients who are not candidates for surgery. Radiotherapy may also be used to shrink a tumor prior to surgery or reduce pain from disease. 


In advanced lung cancer, chemotherapy is often the main treatment, with radiation or radiotherapy sometimes used to control symptoms. Chemotherapy may be also be recommended to help reduce pain and other symptoms.

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy, also called molecularly guided therapy, involves genetic analyses of tumor specimens to determine if there is a specific cancer mutation or aberration that can be targeted by a specific drug. 


Immunotherapy harnesses your own immune system to kill cancer cells. UC San Diego Health is at the forefront of developing and studying many types of immunotherapies through our clinical trials. 

Lung Cancer Doctors and Surgeons

At UC San Diego Health, your cancer care is led by a multidisciplinary team of doctors who specialize in your type of cancer.  Highly specialized multidisciplinary care is a hallmark of top-tier academic medical centers such as UC San Diego Health. For patients like you, it means you receive the highest level of care. Find a lung cancer specialist.

Second Opinion Services

When you have a diagnosis as serious as cancer, you deserve a second opinion on your treatment options.

How to Get a Second Opinion

Clinical Trials

Advancing Cancer Care and Prevention

UC San Diego Health physicians are actively researching ways to improve cancer care. By joining a clinical trial, you may receive a new cancer treatment before it is available to the public. If your cancer has not responded to standard therapies, talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial could be right for you.

Patient & Family Support Services

At UC San Diego Health, your care goes beyond treating disease. It also includes supporting you and your loved ones emotionally throughout your cancer journey. Most of our support services are free.

Browse All Support Services

Palliative Care

Palliative care is designed to relieve suffering and improve your quality of life by focusing on your physical and emotional comfort during treatment. Palliative care is not reserved for end-of-life care.

Read About Palliative Care