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Thoracic Oncology (Esophageal & Lung Cancers)

The Thoracic Oncology program at Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute meets the special needs of people with tumors in the thorax (within the chest cavity). The most common of these are esophageal cancer and lung cancer, and we provide a comprehensive range of diagnostic and treatment resources for them. The program is home to one of the most experienced teams of thoracic cancer specialists in northern New England, with an esophageal and lung cancer patient volume that qualifies MMC as a national center of excellence in this type of care. We are the only hospital in Maine with this level of surgical volume and the depth of experience it represents.

The Thoracic Oncology program uses a multidisciplinary model to plan the best care of patients with thoracic cancers. This team includes specialists in pulmonary medicine (treating diseases of the lung) or gastroenterology (treating diseases of the esophagus) working with experts in radiology, thoracic surgery, pathology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, interventional radiology, and palliative care. Non-physician members of the team include the oncology nurse navigator, research nurses, tobacco treatment specialist, oncology dietitian, oncology social worker, and the American Cancer Society patient navigator. When surgery is not an option, our team of specialists provides patients access to a variety of therapies. This multidisciplinary approach to each patient provides the best possible care.


Esophageal cancer and pre-malignant conditions

Lung cancer, including:

  • Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC)
  • Carcinoid tumors (a slow-growing type of tumor usually found in the gastrointestinal system, and sometimes in the lungs or other sites)
  • Mesothelioma (a tumor that may or may not be cancerous affecting the lining of the chest or abdomen)

Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis &Treatment

Esophageal cancer often is diagnosed at a late stage of development when surgery is no longer an option. Early diagnosis and treatment, however, can significantly improve the patient’s outcome.

MMC experts in digestive health work together with Cancer Institute specialists to provide patients a multidisciplinary approach to careDigestive health specialists diagnose and treat patients with disorders of the esophagus. They have a surveillance program for early changes (premalignant) in the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus, which can be caused by erosion from GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Our team will biopsy the lesion (remove a part of it) or when warranted, will remove it completely. We then periodically check for any new lesions that may form on the esophagus. Surgery or other new techniques may be used to remove lesions. Esophagitis is another condition commonly caused by GERD but also can be caused by medications, allergies and treatments for cancer. Common forms of treatment include acid-blocking drugs and nutrition via an intravenous (IV) line, allowing the esophagus to rest. If left untreated, esophagitis can lead to Barrett’s esophagus.

Depending on the stage and other characteristics of the esophageal tumor, the treatment plan may include endoscopy, open or laparoscopic surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these therapies. Maine Medical Center also offers patients treatment in clinical trials that are nationally recognized, bringing the latest advances in treatment for people with esophageal cancer to Maine.

Lung Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

MMC Cancer Institute has specialists trained in the latest techniques for diagnosing and staging cancer. They work as a team to help detect lung and other thoracic cancers and to monitor treatment effectiveness.

We believe our team approach benefits the patient in two important ways. First, the accurate diagnosis and staging of lung cancer often requires consultation with several different specialists. At the MMC Cancer Institute Thoracic Oncology program, we can often arrange all necessary consultations on the same day, in one location, which is convenient for patients. Also, we can expedite the process of diagnosis and staging so that treatment can begin sooner. In fact, our goal is to ensure that our patients move from presentation of a suspected lung cancer diagnosis to treatment within 30 days.

Treatment options provided by MMC Cancer Institute’s Thoracic Oncology program include the region's most comprehensive and advanced array of medical, surgical, radiation oncology and interventional radiology. Among these treatment options is thoracic surgery with a video-assisted approach that is a minimally invasive way to access the chest, and robotic surgery, a technique in which a surgeon operates a computer that remotely controls very small instruments attached to a robot.

Clinical Outcomes

Our clinical outcomes in the management of thoracic cancers meet or exceed national benchmarks, but our commitment to high quality state-of-the-art care does not stop there. We continually strive to improve the quality of care for our patients through ongoing review of Thoracic Oncology program data compared to national benchmarks, quality improvement measures, educational programs, and comprehensive support services.

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