What role does a pulmonologist play in cancer treatment?

You may know that a pulmonologist specializes in treating diseases like pneumonia and asthma, but these specialized doctors also play a key role in treatment for lung cancer and cancers that have spread to lungs, such as breast cancer, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer. At MD Anderson, our pulmonologists help confirm a cancer diagnosis and determine the disease’s stage as well as if it has spread — all of which are needed to determine the best treatment plan for our patients. To better understand the role that these specialists play in cancer care and what you can do to prepare for you appointment, we spoke with pulmonologist George Eapen, M.D. Here’s what he shared. How is cancer in the lungs diagnosed? Patients typically learn they may have cancer in a lung during an ER visit, or an appointment with their primary care physician for a persistent cough, shortness of breath or chest pain. The doctor will request scans, and if there’s an abnormality (sometimes called a nodule or a mass), you will see a pulmonologist for a confirmation of diagnosis through biopsy. What questions will be covered during an initial consultation with a pulmonologist? We’re looking for clues to help form a diagnosis. We want to know any details you can share about when your symptoms started and anything that makes your symptoms better or worse. Also, tell us if you’ve undergone sedation before and if you had any difficulties with that experience. We also need to know if you have a history of heart disease or if you’re on a blood thinner. These are all risk factors for...