And like other forms of cancer, the earlier it's caught, the better chance patients have to survive.
Now a new device is helping doctors diagnose lung cancer.
52-year old Ivy Elkins is a wife, mother of two teens and now an advocate for cancer research and treatment.
Five years ago, Ivy's world turned upside down.
"I was completely shocked when I found out I had lung cancer."
Ivy was a non-smoker with no typical risk factors. She went to the doctor with chronic pain in her elbow which turned out to be cancer that started in her lungs and spread to her bones and her brain.
"I didn't know at that point what I know now," she remembered.
"Anybody with lungs can get lung cancer."
Ivy, like many patients, had no symptoms until after the cancer had spread.
Dr. Kyle Hogarth worked closely with developers on a new system to diagnose lung cancer at an early stage.
It's called the "Monarch".
Doctors pass a robotic bronchoscope through the patient's mouth and secure it in one of the main branches of the lung.
Using a hand held control, doctors can pass catheters through the scope into the airways.
"I can get out now to new regions of the lung and because of the flexibility of the device I can get to spots I couldn't get to before," explained University of Chicago Bronchoscopy director Dr. D. Kyle Hogarth.
Tiny cameras also allow doctors complete visibility while they biopsy nodules without a patient needing invasive surgery.
FEWER LIMITATIONS: In his role as a consultant, Dr. D. Kyle Hogarth took the earliest iterations of the machine for test drives in models and cadavers and helped keep the developers on task to create something that could truly revolutionize patient care, especially for people with lung cancer. Prior to having the "Monarch" Platform, Hogarth was more limited in the types of patients he could evaluate and the tissue he could reach. He now has 360-degree visualization in the airways and a nested scope design allows one scope to stay planted while the second ventures on to the exact spot being targeted, making hard-to-navigate s-curves in the lungs no longer insurmountable.
Ivy Elkins is being treated with targeted therapy which is keeping her cancer at bay.
She's thrilled that new research is now helping others at an early stage of the disease.
The "Monarch" received FDA clearance at the beginning of 2018.
Dr. Hogarth says so far, a handful of major medical centers across the country have begun using the technology for diagnosis.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.