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Lung Cancer

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Lung cancer is a complex disease. At UC San Diego Health, we offer you treatments to improve 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.

Types of Lung Cancer We Treat

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

  • 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 and ascystic carcinomas

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 a procedure, such as 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. For more about advanced diagnostic methods offered at UC San Diego Health, see Interventional Pulmonology.

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

Comprehensive, Personalized Treatments

At UC San Diego Health, you'll find specialists who work together to understand your disease and to develop a treatment strategy that is unique to you. Your care plan may include one or a combination of the following treatment approaches.


If your cancer has not spread beyond the lung, surgery is frequently the first choice of treatment to remove all the 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 upon the lung. This results in smaller surgical incisions than those required for other forms of surgery. For more information, see Lung 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. For more information, see Radiation Therapy.


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. For more information, see Immunotherapy.

Palliative Care

Palliative care can help improve a patient's quality of life by treating symptoms and side effects such as pain, fatigue, anemia, hair loss, nausea, and depression. For more information, see Palliative Care.

Team Approach

We collaborate with you to deliver world-class care in a caring, supportive environment. Your care team may include medical oncologists, pulmonologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists and pathologists who all specialize in lung cancers. 

Clinical Trials for Lung Cancer

In addition to standard approaches, you may qualify for a clinical trial, which can give you early access to the most promising new therapies and advanced technologies. UC San Diego Health is a national leader in developing clinical trials, expanding your treatment options and giving you access to the latest lung cancer therapies.

Patient and Family Support Services

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

Appointments & Referrals


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Meet Our Specialists

Smoking Cessation Assistance

Whether you're ready to quit or just thinking about it, the smoking cessation program at UC San Diego Health can help. 

Personalized Cancer Care

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At the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, we use genetic testing to analyze tumors and tailor cancer treatments to individual patients.

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