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UT Southwestern Medical Center’s experienced, integrated team of chest cancer specialists delivers an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating patients with every type of the disease, no matter how complex. 

As the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today and push to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the ability to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities. 

Many of our specialists are internationally recognized leaders who are helping define treatment guidelines and develop new therapies for chest cancer. Patients receive the most advanced care delivered by experienced, compassionate cancer experts.

A Leader in Academic Medicine and Comprehensive Care

Chest cancers – also known as thoracic cancers – include the many types of lung canceresophageal cancer, and cancers of the mediastinum (the space between the lungs), pleura (the membrane that lines the chest cavity and surrounds the lungs), airway, thymus gland, and heart. 

Cancers that develop in other parts of the body can also spread to the chest. Mesothelioma, a cancer that originates in the lining of the chest or abdomen, often affects the lungs and other thoracic organs and tissues. 

UT Southwestern’s chest cancer team has access to the many resources of our academic medical center – from the newest therapies based on the most promising research discoveries to the expertise of colleagues in related disciplines. 

Chest Cancer Program Highlights

Our chest cancer specialists deliver advanced, comprehensive care that meets each patient’s individual needs and goals. Our treatment program includes:

  • Recognized experts in chest cancer treatment and research
  • Leading-edge technologies and tools for the delivery of the most current medical, radiation, and surgical therapies available
  • A support team of specially trained nurses, pain specialists, psychologists, social workers, dietitians, and financial counselors – all dedicated to helping patients and families get answers to their questions, gain new coping strategies, and receive emotional and practical support
  • Convenience, with all specialists in one location for seamless care 

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Because chest cancer encompasses a number of different cancers, symptoms will be different for different people. Common symptoms of chest cancer include:

  • Chest pain
  • Cough that brings up blood or hemoptysis
  • Painful coughing or a cough that doesn’t go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Unusual lumps of tissue under the skin on the chest
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Patients should talk to their doctor if they are experiencing any of these symptoms. If chest cancer is suspected, the doctor might perform a few tests to help determine a diagnosis. These can include:

  • Imaging tests: Using X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or other methods to examine inside the chest for abnormal growths
  • Sputum cytology: Looking at sputum (thick mucus, or phlegm, from the lungs) under the microscope
  • Tissue sample/biopsy: Taking a sample of abnormal cells to test for cancer cells 


UT Southwestern’s experienced chest cancer specialists take a multipronged approach to treating the disease – often combining surgery with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both (chemoradiation). 


In many cases, surgery is the most appropriate first course of treatment for chest cancer, but the decision to perform surgery depends on the type of cancer, its stage and location, and the patient’s overall health, goals, and preferences. Our goal is to precisely remove as much cancerous tissue as possible while minimizing the surgical impact on the body. 

Our skilled thoracic surgeons, including Scott Reznick, M.D., offer a broad range of state-of-the-art procedures, many of which can be performed with minimally invasive techniques, such as robotic surgery.

Minimally invasive and robotic surgery benefits include:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Less postoperative pain and scarring
  • Faster recovery
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Quicker return to mobility and normal activity

UT Southwestern is credited with performing several first robotic chest procedures and techniques, including the world’s first published robotic oncologic esophagectomy. Since that initial surgery, we have become one of the highest-volume robotic thoracic surgery centers in the country. 

Learn more about surgery for specific chest cancers:

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and keep them from growing. 

When a patient needs radiation therapy to treat chest cancer, a radiation oncologist will work with him or her to determine the best type of therapy. This decision will depend on the type, stage, size, and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health, goals, and preferences. 

UT Southwestern offers a wide variety of radiation therapies and technologies, such as:

Many of UT Southwestern’s researchers and clinicians are nationally recognized leaders in developing and using radiation therapies to target cancer. Our team has access to some of the most advanced radiation therapy technologies available anywhere. All are aimed at increasing both the safety and effectiveness of radiation treatment while minimizing damage to nearby tissue. 

Support Services

UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center offers an array of support services to people undergoing treatment for chest cancer – and even for those who have been treated in the past. These services range from survivorship seminars to nutrition counseling and support groups.

Clinical Trials

Our active clinical trials program allows eligible patients to access chest cancer therapies that aren’t available at most other health care centers. Patients should speak with their doctors to determine if a clinical trial is an appropriate part of the treatment process.