Skip to Main Content

Thoracic Cancer

The services provided in the Thoracic Cancer Program at Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center include the diagnosis and treatment of malignant and high-risk diseases of the lungs, esophagus, trachea, chest wall, pleura and thymus. Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, as well as symptom management and survivor services

In addition to specializing in the treatment of thoracic cancers, our program is committed to participating in existing clinical investigations of new therapeutic medications. The program also is dedicated to designing more clinical trials and “translating” basic scientific discoveries in a lab into new medications and protocols that have the potential to help those with cancer.

For more information about our Thoracic Cancer Program or scheduling an appointment at Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s, please call (602) 406-8222.

The goal is a better understanding of how lung cancer and other thoracic cancers can be treated and managed. Here are the basics about a variety of thoracic cancers:

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer occurs in one of two forms – non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. The types are based on the way the cells look under a microscope, according to the National Cancer Institute. Non-small cell lung cancer is far more common than small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. About 85 percent of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma are all subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer is also called oat cell cancer. About 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers. This type of lung cancer tends to spread quickly, according to the American Cancer Society.

Though symptoms may not appear until lung cancer is in a late stage, these are some of the signs that may be present earlier:

  • a cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • chest discomfort or pain
  • wheezing
  • swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck
  • blood in sputum coughed up from the lungs
  • hoarseness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss for no apparent reason
  • feeling very tired

Lung cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. among men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. Though smoking rates are down in this country, lung cancer continues to occur in significant numbers: more than 221,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year.

Lung Cancer Screening - The lung cancer screening program at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center offers those with a high risk of lung cancer the opportunity to screen for and diagnose lung cancer before symptoms develop. To obtain more information or to make an appointment for a lung screening, call our toll-free number 1-855-LUNG-SCREEN (855) 586-4727.

Take a FREE Online Lung Cancer Risk Assessment - This online tool provides a personalized, strictly confidential information that will help you:

  • Identify your lung cancer risk factors
  • Learn if lung cancer screening is recommended for you 

For information about survival rates for this cancer, visit

For more information about lung cancer,

Back to top

Pleural Cancer

Pleural cancer is more commonly known as mesothelioma. The disease develops in the pleura, the soft tissue that surrounds the lungs. In almost all cases, pleural mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure.

For more information about mesothelioma, visit this page from the National Cancer Institute:

About 3,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with mesothelioma this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include a lingering cough and shortness of breath.

Back to top

Thymus cancer

Thymus cancer, which is uncommon, starts in the small gland located just behind the breast bone in the front the chest. The thymus, part of the lymph system, sits just in front of and above the heart in the space between the lungs that contains the esophagus, part of the trachea, and lymph nodes. The thymus gland makes white blood cells that protect the body against infections.

For more information about thymus gland cancer, visit this page developed by the National Cancer Institute:

Back to top

Questions to ask your oncologist

  • What is my diagnosis and prognosis?
  • What is your experience in treating the cancer I have?
  • How will you determine the best treatment for me?
  • How long does each treatment option typically last, both individually and as a series of treatments?
  • How will you know if the treatment is making progress?

For more information about various types of cancer, cancer staging and treatment options, click on this link from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN): NCCN Guidelines for Patients® -

For more information about scheduling an appointment at Dignity Health – Cancer Institute at St. Joseph’s, please call (602) 406-8222.

Decreasing risk for thoracic cancer

You can minimize your risk of developing thoracic (chest) cancers through these steps:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of many thoracic cancers.
  • Stay away from secondhand smoke. Over time, even secondhand smoke can raise your risk of lung cancer.


Search our network of oncologists in Phoenix and schedule your appointment today