US News & World Report High Performing Hospitals 2020-21: Lung Cancer SurgeryAt Providence Saint John’s, we understand that a lung cancer diagnosis may mark your entry into a complex and daunting new world of family concerns, medical options and changes in lifelong patterns. Our patients come from all over the world to be treated at Saint John’s. Our team of skilled surgeons, oncologists, pathologists and nurses are here to navigate these challenges with you. Throughout your diagnosis and treatment, you’ll receive personalized, compassionate care from a team of experts, led by Robert McKenna, M.D., a national leader in lung cancer surgery and treatment.

By the time you visit Saint John’s Surgery Services, you already know you appear to have a suspicious or cancerous spot in the area of your lungs. You may have done some independent research about types of cancer and the range of possible treatments. You are sure to have questions about how far the cancer has progressed, which may not immediately be possible to determine.

We understand you want to move quickly now that you know something may be wrong, so we respond urgently to your call:

  • We often are able to schedule your visit for the same day you call
  • We can schedule an operation as soon as the next day

Please feel free to come to your appointment with a family member or trusted friend, or by yourself.


What we will need for your appointment:

  • Bring the image of the affected area taken by your physician, radiologist or X-ray technician. A written report will not be enough for your care team to determine if you need surgery.
  • When you arrive for your appointment, a member of the thoracic surgery team will collect from you a brief medical history, asking such questions as “How was your spot discovered?” We will want to understand, for example, whether you are exhibiting symptoms that may be indicative of cancer or whether a suspicious spot appeared on an X-ray you received for another purpose, such as to assess injuries from a traffic accident.
  • After this brief discussion, you will be introduced to Dr. McKenna, who will meet with you in an exam room.
  • A thorough, accurate diagnosis

    To  determine whether cancer has formed in your lungs, Dr. McKenna will examine the scans. It’s possible – even likely – that the image will tell the story, but it’s also possible he will recommend additional diagnostic screens, such as a PET scan or a biopsy of your sputum, lymph nodes or tissue.

    It’s also possible that your scan will lead Dr. McKenna to consult with other members of the care team, such as a neurologist or radiologist, before making a final diagnosis.

  • Your personalized care plan

    Dr. McKenna will discuss his findings with you in his office. It is likely he will be able to outline your options for treatment, which may include surgery. You will have the time you need to ask questions and discuss concerns you have about the diagnosis or the preferred course of treatment.

    Your treatment will be directed by the decisions you make with Dr. McKenna. You will have the chance to consider your choices before undergoing any surgical procedure.

  • The latest in tools and treatments

    Your choice of treatment will be guided by the diagnosis. If you have what’s known as small-cell cancer, or if your non-small-cell cancer has advanced to Stage II, III or IV, your treatment may include chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

    Fortunately, most of the patients who come to Providence Saint John’s Division of Thoracic Surgery are people at Stage I, whose cancer or spot has been discovered early.

    Dr. McKenna is a pioneer in a minimally invasive procedure called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, or VATS. In this procedure, the tumor is removed through a small incision, allowing you to heal more quickly, with less pain than you experience in conventional thoracic surgery. 

    Your care team will work with you to determine the most effective, least invasive form of treatment. We share your wish to begin the recovery process as quickly as possible.
    After the procedure you will be scheduled for a six-month follow-up visit, so your care team can continue to monitor your lung health.

  • You are not alone

    Soon after they arrive for their first visit, many people ask “What if I have cancer?”

    Our answer is simple: If you have cancer, then you have joined the family. We will get to know you as you get to know us, and we will share in your journey through the diagnosis, surgery and recovery.


The Division of Minimally Invasive Chest Surgery and Thoracic Surgical Oncology is committed to excellence in patient care, teaching, research and community service. Services provided by the Saint John's Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Division of General Thoracic Surgery encompass all aspects of chest diseases. Our surgeons are well recognized leaders in Thoracic Surgery nationally and internationally.

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