Treatment for lung cancer
involves surgical removal of the cancer, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, as well as combinations of these treatments.
location and extent of the tumor, as well as the overall health status
of the patient will be taken in to account to determine the appropriate
type of treatments for a given individual.
or sometimes stage 2 NSCLC and for cancer that has not spread beyond the
lung, surgical removal of the tumor is generally performed. But removal
does not always result in a cure, since the tumors may already have
spread and can recur at a later time. Although a tumor may be
anatomically suitable for resection, surgery may not be possible if the
person has other serious conditions such as severe heart or lung disease
that would limit their ability to survive an operation.
less often performed with SCLC than with NSCLC because these tumors are
less likely to be localized to one area that can be removed. Depending
upon the size and location of the tumor, the surgical procedure is
chosen. Surgery can be done to remove of a portion of one lobe, entire
lobe or an entire lung. Sometimes lymph nodes in the region of the lungs
also are removed. Patients may experience difficulty breathing,
shortness of breath, pain, and weakness after the surgery.
The risks of surgery include complications due to bleeding, infection, and complications of general anesthesia.
therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill
dividing cancer cells for both NSCLC and SCLC. The radiation is either
given externally by using a machine that directs radiation toward the
cancer, or internally through placement of radioactive substances in
sealed containers within the area of the body where the tumor is
When a small pellet of radioactive material placed
directly into the cancer or into the airway next to the cancer through a
bronchoscope, that is known as brachytherapy . If a person refuses
surgery, if a tumor has spread to areas such as the lymph nodes or
trachea making surgical removal impossible or if a person has other
conditions that major surgery is not possible, radiation therapy can be
Radiation therapy generally only shrinks a tumor or limits its
growth when given as a sole therapy. Combining radiation therapy with
chemotherapy can prolong survival. Radiotherapy can not be given to a
person who has severe lung disease with lung cancersince the radiation
can further decrease function of the lungs.
Gamma knife is a type of
external radiation therapy used to treat single brain metastases. In
this procedure, multiple beams of radiation from different directions
are focused on the tumor over a few minutes to hours while the head is
held in place by a rigid frame. This reduces the dose of radiation that
is received by noncancerous tissues. Brain radiation therapy can cause
short-term memory problems, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.
Radiation therapy can have side effects, including fatigue and lack of
energy. A reduced white blood cell count and low blood platelet levels
also can occur with radiation therapy. If the digestive organs are in
the field exposed to radiation, patients may experience nausea,
vomiting, or diarrhea. Radiation therapy can irritate the skin in the
area that is treated, but this irritation generally improves with time
after treatment has ended.
to the administration of drugs that stop the growth of cancer cells by
killing them or preventing them from dividing for both NSCLC and SCLC.
the platinum-based drugs have been the most effective in treatment of
For most SCLC chemotherapy is the treatment of choice,
since the tumors are generally widespread in the body when they are
diagnosed. Chemotherapy may be given as pills, as an intravenous
infusion, or as a combination of the two. Unfortunately, the drugs used
in chemotherapy also kill normally dividing cells in the body, resulting
in unpleasant side effects such as increased susceptibility to
infections and difficulties with blood clotting. Other side effects
include fatigue, weight loss, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and
The side effects generally disappear during the recovery phase of the treatment or after its completion.
the tumors have specific genetic changes that promote tumor growth,
molecularly targeted therapy is done. Erlotinib and gefitinib are
targeted drugs that more specifically target cancer cells, resulting in
less damage to normal cells than general chemotherapeutic agents. Other
targeted therapies include ALK tyrosine kinase inhibitor drugs
crizotinib and ceritinib that are used in patients whose tumors have an
abnormality of the ALK gene as the driver mutation.