Anatomy for Lung Cancer Treatment

Before trying to understand lung cancer treatment or side effects, patients should first at least have basic understanding of chest anatomy.

Read the full video transcript below:

In order to fully understand their diagnosis and treatment options, patients with a new diagnosis of lung cancer should first have at least a basic understanding of lung anatomy. 

Anytime a doctor shows you either an x-ray or a CAT scan looking from front to back, it's worth recognizing that the left lung is actually on the right side of the screen because the patient is sitting in the screen looking back at us. The lungs are of course paired organs, which means there's one on each side, like eyes, ears, and kidneys. The right lung has three lobes, upper, middle, and lower. On the left, there are only two lobes, upper and lower. 

Tumors that are located close to the middle part of the lungs we call centrally located, whereas tumors that are located closer to the edges are called peripherally located. This can have big implications for surgery or radiation. 

The windpipe or trachea is the main tube that leads from the throat down into the chest. It splits off to filter air between the lungs through the right bronchus and the left bronchus. The heart is located in the middle part of the chest, but extends over towards the left side. The esophagus is a hollow tube-like organ, and when you swallow food, it travels down the esophagus from the throat down to the stomach and the abdomen. 

There's a meshwork of lymph nodes all around the middle part of the lung, extending upwards throughout the middle part of the chest. If cancer spreads to these lymph nodes, it affects the stage and oftentimes will change the treatment for cancer. The ribs and sternum are in the outer part of the chest and protect all of the vital organs inside. 

The diaphragm is a long, flat muscle at the base of the lungs. When it contracts and expands, the lungs move up and down, drawing air in and out. This has implications for lung cancer treatment because a tumor that's growing close to the diaphragm can move up and back down throughout the breathing cycle, making it a moving target. 

This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any medical decisions.