Best Four Lung Cancer Treatments
Lung cancer treatments address tumors that have grown inside the tissue of this major organ. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women. The two types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancers (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). The primary cause of lung cancer is smoking. The number of years a person has smoked, combined with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. Lung cancer is difficult to diagnose because lung tissue is dense, easily hiding developing tumors.
The symptoms of lung cancer can vary widely, and can include intense and persistent coughing, pain in the back or chest, shortness of breath, hoarse voice, coughing up phlegm or blood, and recurring lung problems. Symptoms may also occur other places in the body and can include fatigue, headaches, memory loss, weakness, blood clots, and loss of appetite. Healthcare professionals determine the best lung cancer treatments based on a range of factors, including patients’ age and overall health, the type and stage of the disease, potential side effects of treatment, and whether or not the cancer has spread. Common lung cancer treatment options are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy.
Surgery as a lung cancer treatment removes any tumors, damaged tissue, and a small amount of healthy tissue. The surgical procedures used to remove lung cancer include wedge resection, segmental resection, lobectomy, and pneumonectomy. Each procedure removes sections of lung; the pneumonectomy removes the entire lung. Surgeons also often remove lymph nodes from the chest to check them for signs of cancer. Patients can expect to feel shortness of breath after surgery, which can improve over time with breathing exercises. In addition, remaining lung tissue expands, making it easier to breathe. Surgery is most often utilized during stage 0 or stage 1 of non-small cell lung cancer. This treatment option isolates the part of the lung that contains the cancer and removes it. In some individuals, this treatment may be enough to cure the lung cancer. However, many patients still opt to follow up surgery with radiation, chemotherapy, or both.
Radiation therapy utilizes large amounts of high-powered energy to kill cancer cells. Patients may imagine that the radiation used is external, like from x-rays. While external-beam radiation is used to eradicate the cancer, it can also be placed inside the body near the cancer using catheters, needles, or seeds. Radiation therapy is used after surgery to kill any cancer cells that remain, as well as any cancer that cannot be surgically removed. In advanced stages of lung cancer, radiation can be used to relieve symptoms. For small tumors, physicians may opt to use stereotactic body radiotherapy, which aims several beams of radiation at the lung cancer from different angles.
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This medication can be taken orally or intravenously. Typically, chemotherapy is administered over periods of weeks or months using a combination of drugs. Patients receive breaks between rounds of chemotherapy to help them stay as healthy as possible. This lung cancer treatment option may be used to shrink tumors and make them easier to remove during surgery, or chemotherapy may be used after surgery to eradicate any remaining cancer cells.
Targeted drug therapy are drugs that are often used in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs to increase the effectiveness of both lung cancer treatment options. Targeted drug therapies are newer on the cancer treatment scene, targeting specific cancer cell abnormalities to reduce and eradicate them. Targeted therapy drugs include Cyramza, Tarceva, Avastan, and Gilotrif, among others. Some of these drugs only work in patients who have specific genetic mutations, which can be tested before these drugs are considered as a lung cancer treatment option.