Fear is a common reaction among patients when handed a diagnosis of cancer in their lungs.
“Is there a cure?” “What kind of treatment will allow me to have healthy lungs again?”
The good news is that lung cancer treatment exists, and its efficacy depends on various factors like the type of cancer, its stage, its location in the lung, patient’s overall health, etc.
The five basic treatment options for Lung Cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapy.
Let’s take a look at them in more detail:
A specialist thoracic surgeon removes cancer from the lung via surgery. Different types of surgeries include:
- Lobectomy – This procedure involves removal of an entire lobe of the lung (lung has five lobes – two in the left lung and three in the right).
- Wedge Resection– If removal of entire lobe is not possible, the surgeon removes a small section of the cancerous part.
- Segmentectomy – The surgeon only removes a small portion where the cancer has developed.
- Pneumonectomy – The entire lung is removed in this form of surgery that is required if the tumour sits too close to the chest centre.
- Radiofrequency ablation – If other forms of surgeries cannot be done, a needle is inserted into the tumour and passed with an electric current.
- Keyhole surgery – Very early-stage, small cancers can be removed using a lighted scope and video monitor. It is also known as video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
#2 Radiation Therapy
A radiation oncologist performs radiation therapy by destroying cancer cells using high-energy radiation. The treatment is spread out in intervals over a period of time, which could vary from few days to weeks. Radiation therapy is used against smaller cancers as radiation also damages normal cells during its action. There are two ways to administer radiation:
- External-beam radiation therapy (through an external machine)
- Internal radiation therapy (through implants)
Sometimes, CT scans are used to direct radiation to specific cancer locations, especially in early-stage cancers when surgery is not an option.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells in the lungs & rest of the body. It is performed under the care of a medical oncologist and delivered systemically either intravenously, through a needle, or by a pill taken orally.
The type of drug(s) used depends on the type of cancer. Chemotherapy is given in form of cycles over a period of time at a regular interval of 1-4weeks, depending on the regimen being used. Few of the chemotherapy drugs being used are Carboplatin, Cisplatin, Paclitaxel, Albumin Bound Paclitaxel, Docetaxel, Pemetrexed, etc.
Patients can experience long-term side effects from chemotherapy, though there are treatments available to reduce the effects. All concerns must be discussed openly with the doctor.
#4 Targeted Therapy
This form of treatment specifically targets cancer genes, proteins or tissue and blocks the growth and spread of those cells, while also shielding the effect of therapy from healthy cells. However, a patient must undergo special screenings before they can be considered eligible for targeted therapy. Some of the medicines used as targeted therapy for lung cancer are Bevacizumab, Cetuximab, Erlotinib, Gefitinib, Crizotonib.
#5 Combined treatments
Most patients receive more than one type of treatment simultaneously. For example, chemotherapy may be administered before or along with radiation therapy, or before or after surgery. Chemotherapy may be given alone or in combination with targeted therapy.
Every patient’s treatment plan is assessed based on his or her condition, and it is important for patients to involve themselves in understanding all lung cancer treatment options, and ask questions regarding them.
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Image courtesy of [Theeradech Sanin] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“How is Lung Cancer Treated?” Lung.org, American Lung Association, https://www.lung.org/lung-disease/lung-cancer/treating-lung-cancer/how-is-lung-cancer-treated/
“Lung Cancer: Treatment,” Cancer.gov, National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/treatment/lung
“Lung Cancer: Treatment Options,” Cancer.net, https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lung-cancer/treatment-options
“Types of treatment for lung cancer,” CancerResearchUK.org, https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/lung-cancer/treatment/which-treatment-for-lung-cancer