Lung cancer treatment

Lung cancer, regrettably, is responsible for the death of many, both men and women; in fact, it is the first leading cause of cancer deaths among humanity. It goes without saying that treatment is very aggressive, but not always successful. This success is dependent on two main factors: the type of tissue disease (histopathology) and the stage of the cancer. Determining the answers to these two factors is paramount to forming any sort of treatment plan, which is done with the collaboration of an oncology team and the patient. Together, this whole team will have to take into account the medical history of the patient, the patient’s general health, and the characteristics of the cancerous tumor. This latter consideration will further be divided into patients who are at low risk and patients who are at high risk for cancer recurrence.

Types of Lung Cancer
There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

  • NSCLC is the most common, accounting for nearly 80% of lung cancer cases. Among the NSCLC’s are 4 different types: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, bronchioalveolar carcinoma, and large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma. While these names sound very confusing, they describe exactly where or what the cancer is. For example, adenocarcinoma is found in the glands of the lungs that produce mucus; squamous cell carcinoma forms on the lining of the bronchial tubes.
  • SCLC, which makes up about 20% of all lung cancers, is almost always caused by smoking. The cells are small and multiply quickly and can form large tumors capable of spreading throughout the entire body.

Types of Treatment Plans
There are different options of treatment for lung cancer patients. As mentioned above, it depends on the progression of the disease and the type of cancer. Often times, surgery is accompanied by a type of radiation or chemotherapy.

  • Surgical Resection. This type of surgery is typically done only on patients in whom the cancer has not progressed outside the lung tissue. There are different techniques that may be chosen by the physician.
    • Thoracotomy. This surgery is performed through the chest wall.
    • Median Sternotomy. This surgery is performed by cutting through the breast bone.
    • Anterior Limited Thoracotomy. Performed on the frontal chest through a small incision, this type is less invasive than the standard thoracotomy and can result in less blood loss both during and after surgery, less post-operative drainage, and less pain after surgery.
    • Anterioraxillary Thoracotomy. Performed on the frontal chest near the underarm.
    • Posterolateral Thoracotomy. Performed on the back side of the trunk.
  • Wedge Section Surgery. This type of surgery is used to remove a tumor, or cancerous section of the lung, and some of the normal tissue surrounding it.
  • Lobectomy. A lobectomy removes a whole lobe of the lung.
  • Pneumonectomy. A surgery that removes one whole lung.
  • Cryosurgery. Uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, a.k.a. cancerous tissue.
  • Electrocautery. Similar to cryosurgery, it uses a probe or needle that is heated by an electric current, aimed to destroy abnormal tissue.
  • Radiation Therapy. This type of cancer treatment uses high energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells and/or keep them from growing.
    • External Radiation Therapy. Uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
    • Internal Radiation Therapy. Uses a radioactive substance concealed in a needle, wire, or catheter, and is placed directly on or near the cancer.
  • Chemotherapy. Uses drugs to stop the growth and spread of cancer; it either kills the cells or stops them from dividing. It can be administered by a vein or muscle injection, or it can be taken by mouth; either way, it enters the bloodstream and the hope is that it will reach the cancerous cells. Regional chemotherapy targets one specific area.
  • Targeted Therapy. Uses drugs or other powerful substances that target and attack specific cancer cells. It does this without harming normal cells. Some types of this therapy produce specific antibodies, and others inhibit the growth of certain signals that the tumors need in order to grow.

Decide with the Doctor
Unfortunately, there are times when the potential benefits of treatment don’t weigh out over the side effects. This is usually the case when the cancer has progressed to the last stage before it was diagnosed. In such an instance, the doctor would talk to you about providing medication and other supplements to make the pain more bearable.

Last updated on Jul 26th, 2010 and filed under Cancer Research. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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