Lung cancer occurs when abnormal growths develop in your lungs. It begins in the lungs and may sometimes spread to lymph nodes or other organs in the body, such as the brain. Cancer from other organs also may spread to the lungs. Lung cancer causes more deaths than other types of cancers combined. However, there are various lung cancer treatment options.
Lung cancer treatment decisions are made by you and your healthcare team together. All lung cancer treatment options have potential risks and benefits. There are two different types of lung cancer. Regardless of the type your options are based on:
- What type of the disease you have
- Its stage
- Whether the cancer has spread in your body
- The side effects the treatment may cause
- Your age and general health
- Your preferences and goals
Lung Cancer Treatment Options
As mentioned above, there are a number of factors that doctors review prior to placing patients on a treatment plan. The good news is that there are a wide range of lung cancer treatment options to fit a person’s diagnosis.
Each lung cancer treatment option has risks and possible side effects. Most side effects can be managed fairly well. But you should consider all of the possibilities when you examine your lung cancer treatment options.
Treatment options include:
This is an option when the cancer hasn’t spread too far in your body. It’s usually the best way to treat non-small-cell lung cancer.
Your doctor can remove the part of the lung that has the tumor and healthy tissue around it. Or you may need to have your entire lung removed. You might also need radiation or chemotherapy after surgery. After the operation, you might need to stay in the hospital for about a week to heal before you go home to recover.
However, minimally invasive procedures are also available. This is where tiny incisions are made in the chest. Your surgeon will use a thoracoscope, a flexible tube to examine the chest and get rid of tissue.
2. Lung Cancer Treatment Options: Radiation
This is often the case for people who may not be healthy enough to have surgery. It is also used for those whose cancer has spread too far to have surgery. There are different types of radiation for lung cancer. All types kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
Sometimes radiation is used to relieve lung cancer symptoms such as pain or bleeding. Radiation therapy uses powerful, high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. It can also be used before lung cancer surgery to shrink the tumor. Also after surgery to kill any cancer cells left in the lungs.
Radiation may come from outside the body (external). It can also be from radioactive materials placed directly inside the lung cancer tumor (internal/implant). But the one outside the body is used most often. It kills the cancer cells only in that area of the lungs.
This can be used as a main treatment or in addition to other measures such as surgery. This is a form of drugs used to get rid of cancer cells. Doses can be given orally or via an intravenous. The combination of chemo medication is given over months or weeks, with breaks during treatment for patient recovery.
Sometimes it is used to kill any cancers cells that remain after the first treatment. It may also be used in later stages of the disease to relieve cancer symptoms.
This is suitable for non-small cell lung cancer. Your doctor guides a thin needle through your skin until it touches the tumor inside your lung. Then an electric current passes through it to heat and kill the cancer cells. Several angles can be used to shoot beam variations.
5. Lung Cancer Treatment Options: Immunotherapy
Immunotherapy for cancer is a type of medicine that treats cancer using the body’s own immune system. Your immune system protects you from harmful foreign agents like bacteria and viruses. When it is working well, it attacks what shouldn’t be in your body.
The immune system also has measures in place that keep it from attacking things that should be there like normal organs of the body. Cancer is a tricky problem for the immune system because cancer cells used to be normal organ cells, so they have some familiar features.
But when cells convert to cancer, they acquire some new features that ideally should be recognized as foreign and labeled for immune destruction. Immunotherapy drugs for lung cancer help your body recognize the cancer as foreign and harmful so your body can fight it.
These drugs are given through an IV into your veins as infusions. Patients get infusions every few weeks. Most patients stay on immunotherapy for several months. Some patients may stay on for longer or shorter periods of time, depending on their side effects. Immunotherapy drugs have been shown to keep working for a period of time even after treatment is stopped says the American Lung Association.
6. Targeted Drug Treatments
Targeted therapies help reduce damage to healthy cells. Treatment that kills cancer cells also can affect normal cells, causing unwanted side effects. This focuses on cancer cells by interrupting their growth and how they function. These therapies attack specific targets on or in the tumor cells.