There are several options to treat lung cancer and the side effects that may accompany treatment. Each patient is different, and his or her course of treatment will be personalized.
The lungs are located in the chest. When you breathe, air goes through your nose, down your windpipe (trachea), and into the lungs, where it flows through tubes called bronchi. Most lung cancer begins in the cells that line these tubes. Lung cancer is a malignant lung disease primarily caused by cigarette smoking. It often has no obvious symptoms until the disease is quite advanced, and has a low rate of survival. Treatment for lung cancer mainly involves surgery and chemotherapy, while radiation therapy and targeted drug therapies may also be used.
There are two different types of lung cancer – small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – which differ in terms of how they grow and spread to other parts of the body and how they’re treated.
Treatment Options Overview:
Surgery with removal of the entire lobe in which the tumor is located, is the primary treatment for patients with early-stage cancer who are in good general health. The goal of surgery is to totally eliminate all the tumor cells and thereby provide a cure. Unfortunately, lung cancers tend to develop in smokers more than 50 years of age, who very often have other lung disease or serious medical conditions that magnify the risk of surgery. The location and size of a lung tumor dictate how extensive the operation must be. Open thoracotomy or less invasive video-assisted thoracic surgery, using smaller incisions, may be recommended for appropriately selected patients.
The location of a tumor might cause pain in certain areas of your body. It could also make breathing difficult. The function of palliative surgery is to remove the tumor to make you more comfortable.
Removal of an entire lobe of the lung — is an accepted procedure for removing lung cancer when the lungs are functioning well. The mortality risk is 3 percent to 4 percent, and tends to be highest in older patients. If lung function prohibits lobectomy, a small cancer confined to a limited area can be removed with a small portion of surrounding lung tissue. This is called a sublobar resection, and may be either a wedge resection or a segmentectomy. There is a possible higher risk of recurrence with more limited surgery than a lobectomy. Sublobar resections cause less loss of lung function, as a smaller portion of lung is removed, and carries an operative mortality risk of 1.4 percent. If the entire lung must be taken out by pneumonectomy, the expected mortality rate is 5 percent to 8 percent. The oldest patients are at highest risk and recurrent cancer is very common.
Chemotherapy is referred to as a systemic therapy, because it uses strong drugs to slow or kill cancer cells throughout the whole body. The drugs can be taken orally, in pill or liquid form, but are usually administered intravenously. The dosage and length of treatment varies, but can be prescribed as often as daily, and for as long as years, depending on the type of lung cancer and your response to the treatment. The drawback of chemotherapy treatment is that it damages healthy cells as well as cancerous ones and can cause numerous side effects such as hair loss, nausea, and vomiting.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to reduce or kill cancer cells. Radiation can be focused to specific areas, decreasing the possibility of damaging healthy cells. The doses are administered over a period of weeks or months. This can be the main treatment for some patients, while others will receive it to kill cancer cells that remain after surgery.
Top 5 Cancer Treatment Centers of America:
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, NY
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Mayo Clinic
- Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center
- Johns Hopkins Hospital