- Lung Cancer Treatment: Option and Plan
- Your Personal Treatment Plan
- The Treatment Plan in Case of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
- The Treatment Plan in Case of Small-Cell lung Cancer
- Surgical Operation
- Radiation Therapy
- Chemotherapy Sessions
- Other Possible Treatment Procedures
Lung Cancer Treatment: Option and Plan
When it comes to the treatment of lung cancer, here a medical team of specialists should work in tandem so that to provide the patient with the best possible treatment. As for the type of treatment procedures in case you face lung cancer, the number of options you have depends on various factors.
They are as follows:
- Your type of lung cancer (it can be either non-small-cell or small-cell lung cancer).
- The size of the tumor and where it’s located.
- The stage of your cancer. In other words, the doctors should know how advanced your cancer is.
- The overall state of your health.
Actually, the process of choosing the best treatment options for you can be quite complicated. Even though the medical team that’s responsible for your treatment will do its best to provide the most efficient recommendations, don’t forget that it’s up to you to make the final decision.
The list of the main treatment options involves surgical operation and radiation and chemotherapy. In accordance with the type and stage of your cancer, the doctors may prescribe you a combination of these procedures.
Your Personal Treatment Plan
Your personal treatment plan is defined in accordance with the type of the cancer you’re dealing with. In other words, it’s about whether there is the case of non-small-cell or small-cell lung cancer.
The Treatment Plan in Case of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
If you’re suffering from non-small-cell lung cancer, it means that only one lung is affected. Consequently, your overall state of health is rather good and you are allowed to undergo a surgical operation with the view of removing the cancerous cells. Then, you may be told to undergo a course of chemotherapy so that to kill any other cancerous cells that may be still be present inside your organism.
Sometimes it so happens that irrespective of the fact that the cancer hasn’t yet developed far, it’s impossible to carry out a surgical operation (for instance, due to the overall state of your health that implies a high risk of complications occurrence after the operation). In such like cases, you’re likely to be prescribed a course of radiation therapy so that to kill the cancerous cells. Sometimes, it’s prescribed in combination with chemotherapy. This procedure is referred to as chemoradiotherapy.
If your cancer has developed quite far and radiotherapy as well as a surgical operation are said to be non-effective in your case, chemotherapy is prescribed, as a rule. If the tumor begins growing once again after you’ve undergone a course of chemotherapy, you’re likely to be recommended to undergo one more course of it.
There are cases when biological (targeted) therapy is your best option. It is considered to be an alternative to chemotherapy. However, it may be prescribed after the course of chemotherapy as well. Biological therapy implies drugs that aim to keep the growth of the cancer cells under control and stop it.
The Treatment Plan in Case of Small-Cell Lung Cancer
As a rule, this type of lung cancer is cured with the help of chemotherapy. You may ether only be prescribed chemotherapy or chemotherapy in tandem with radiation therapy. These procedure may contribute to you living a longer life and relieving the symptoms lighter.
As for surgical operation, it’s not usually an option in case you’re dealing with this type of lung cancer since the cancer very often turns out to already have invaded in other organs of your organism by the time doctors detect it. At the same time, in case your doctors mange to detect the cancer in the very beginning, a surgical operation may be possible. Besides, you may be prescribed either chemotherapy or radiation therapy after it so that to reduce the risk of the cancer recurrence.
There exist three main types of surgical operations that may be carried out in case of lung cancer.
- Lobectomy that implies the removal of one or more lobes. Lobes are large parts of your lungs. You will be recommended to undergo this type of surgical operation if there are cancer cell present in only one section of your lung.
- Pneumonectomy – the procedure that involves the removal of the entire lung. The patient is prescribed it if the tumor is located in the middle of the lung or it has spread throughout the lung.
- Wedge resection or the so-called segmentectomy. In case your doctors decide to carry out this type of operation, a small piece of your lung will be removed. Actually, only few patients are recommended to undergo it. The fact is that your doctor prescribes it only if he/she assumes that the tumor is small and there is only one area of the lung that is affected by it. Bear in mind that such like situation is possible only in the very beginning of the non-small-cell lung cancer.
Very often the patients worry that they will be unable to breathe in case either some or the entire lung is removed. You’re to remember that you are able to breathe normally even if you only have one lung. At the same time, if there occur breathing problems before the surgical operation, you’re likely to suffer from these after it.
Tests You’re to Undergo Before a Surgical Operation
Before the surgeon carries out an operation, you should undergo various tests. This is to check the overall state of your health as well as how well your lungs function.
The list of the tests involves the following:
- ECG or an electrocardiogram. There will be electrodes used to see the electrical activity of the heart.
- Spirometry. You’ll be said to breathe into a spirometer – a special machine that aims to measure the amount of air that your lungs are capable of breathing in and out.
How Exactly is a Surgical Operation Carried Out?
As a rule, a surgical operation starts with a cut (incision) in your chest or side. Then, a section of the affected lung is removed. Besides, the lymph nodes located nearby may also be removed if your doctor assumes that they have also been attacked by the tumor.
Sometimes, video-assisted thorascopic surgery may be recommended. This surgery is a possible alternative. It’s also referred to as VATS. Actually, it’s a type of keyhole surgery that involves small incisions in your chest. Then, a small fibre-optic camera is put inside one of the incisions in order for the surgeon to see images of the inside of your chest area on the monitor.
After a Surgical Operation
Actually, you may be discharged from the hospital 5 or ten days after the surgical operation. At the same time, don’t forget that the process of recovering from a lung operation can go on for weeks.
After the surgical operation, your doctor will encourage you to start moving as soon as possible. If you are recommended to stay in bed, you need to regularly move your legs so that your blood circulation goes on normally and no blood clots occur. A physiotherapist may recommend you several breathing exercises that will help you avoid these complications.
Once you’re at home, remember to do the exercises in a slow and gentle manner so that to become strong and fit step by step. Moreover, you are allowed to walk or swim. This types of exercises are considered to have a positive influence on the patients treated from the lung cancer. If you want to know more about the exercises that are an option in your case, consult with the medical team responsible for your treatment.
Like in all the cases when a surgical operation is carried out, there is a certain risk of complications occurrence in case of lung cancer surgery. However, you may get rid of them with the help of particular drugs or additional surgical operation. If your doctors decide to carry out an additional surgical operation, you may be said to stay in the hospital for longer.
The list of possible complications in case of lung surgery involves:
- Inflammatory process or infection of the lung. The case is known as pneumonia.
- Excessive bleeding.
- Deep vein thrombosis or a clot that occurs in the leg. The clot may as well get inside the lung. The doctors call the situation “pulmonary embolism”.
Radiation therapy is a procedure that involves pulses of radiation that aim to kill the cancer cells. There are various ways in which it can be used with the view of curing lung cancer patients.
An intensive course of radiation therapy is also called radical therapy. It is used in case a patient is dealing with non-small-cell lung cancer and it’s impossible to carry out a surgical operation due to a patient’s overall state of health. If it’s about a very small tumor, stereotactic radiation therapy may be carried put instead of a surgical operation.
Radiation therapy is carried out with the view of keeping the symptoms under control and slowing the development of the cancer down. Here it’s implied that it’s impossible to get rid of the cancer and the therapy is called palliative radiation therapy.
PCI or prophylactic cranial irradiation is a type of radiation therapy that can be used in case a patient faces small-cell lung cancer. The procedure implies the treatment of the cancer with the help of a low dose radiation. The radiation is directed to your brain since there is a risk that the cancer may invade in your brain as well.
There exist three ways to carry out a radiotherapy. You’ll find a list of them and their descriptions below.
- Conventional external beam radiation therapy implies that there will be used a machine to direct beams of radiation at those areas of your organism that have been affected.
- Stereotactic radiation therapy means that there will be several high-energy beams used to bring a higher dose of radiation to the tumor. Healthy tissue is spared as much as possible. Therefore, this type of radiation therapy is considered to be a more accurate one.
- Internal radiotherapy means that there will be a catheter (a thin tube) inserted inside your lung. Doctors put a small piece of radioactive material inside the catheter and put it against the site of the tumor. Several minutes later, it is removed.
Actually, in case you face lung cancer, you are more likely to be prescribed external beam radiotherapy than internal radiotherapy. Especially if your doctors assume that it’s possible to cure the cancer. As for stereotactic radiation therapy, it is used only for very small tumors and it’s considered to be more effective than standard radiation therapy under such like conditions.
Internal radiation therapy is only used as a palliative treatment when the tumor is either blocking or partly blocking the airway.
Actually, there are several ways in which your radiation therapy treatment may be planned.
As for radical therapy, it is to undergo 5 days a week. The weekend is considered to be a break time. each session of radiation therapy lasts for 10-15 minutes. The overall time of the course is 4-7 weeks. CHART or continuous hyperfractionated accelerated radiotherapy is an alternative option of radiation therapy. You’re to undergo it 3 times a day, 12 days in a row.
If you’re to undergo stereotactic radiation therapy, less treatment sessions are required since there is higher dose of radiation. People who are prescribed conventional radical radiotherapy will probably be said to undergo from 20-32 sessions. As for stereotactic radiotherapy, approximately 3-10 sessions are needed. When it comes to palliative radiotherapy, 1-5 sessions are required to keep the symptoms under control.
Possible Side Effects
The list of possible side effects of radiotherapy directed at the chest involve:
- Painful sensations in the chest.
- Constant cough. There may also be bloody phlegm. Don’t worry, it’s normal.
- Your skin being red and sore. You feel as if you’ve had a sunburn.
- Loss of hair on the chest.
Once you finish the course of radiation therapy, side effects should go away.
Here, strong drugs are used to kill the cancer and cure you of the disease. There exist several ways to use chemotherapy so that to get rid of the lung cancer.
They are as follows:
- It may be prescribed to undergo before a surgical operation so that to make the tumor smaller. This can increase the chance of the operation to be successful. In his case, the procedure is carried out only as a part of a clinical trial.
- It may be prescribed to undergo after a surgical operation so that to prevent the recurrence of the disease.
- It may be used with the view of relieving the symptoms and slow the development of the cancer down if it’s not possible to cure the cancer.
- It may be prescribed in combination with radiation therapy.
Actually, chemotherapy sessions are, as a rule, prescribed in cycles. One cycle means that you take chemotherapy drugs for several days. Then, you have a break for a few weeks that allows your organism to recover from the effects of the procedure.
In order to define how any cycles you need, the doctors need to know the type and grade of your lung cancer. In the majority of cases, patients need from 4 to 6 course over the period of 3 to 6 months.
Chemotherapy in case you’re dealing with the lung cancer implies that you take a combination of various drugs. The drugs are delivered either through a drip into a vein (intravenously) or into a tube that’s connected to one of the blood vessels located in your chest. Some patients are prescribed capsules or pills instead.
Possible Side Effects
The list of possible chemotherapy side effects involves the following:
- Feeling really weak and tired.
- Suffering from nausea and vomiting.
- Mouth ulcers.
- Loss of hair.
The side effects will slowly go away once you finish undergoing the courses. You may as well be prescribed other drugs that will improve the way you feel during chemotherapy sessions.
Chemotherapy sessions may as well make your immune system weaker thus making you more prone to having an infection. You are strongly recommended to tell your doctor and the medical team responsible for your treatment about any symptoms of the infection as soon as possible. There may be fewer (38º C or 100,4 F or higher) or you may suddenly feel unwell.
Other Possible Treatment Procedures
Apart from a surgical operation, chemotherapy and radiation therapy there exist other treatments that, in some cases, are used with the view of curing the lung cancer. You can find the treatments as well as their descriptions below.
This kind of therapy is considered to be quite new. Actually, it’s very often prescribed as alternative to chemotherapy in case of non-small-cell cancer that is advanced too much and, therefore, neither a surgical operation nor radiation therapy are effective.
Erlotinib and gefitinib are types of biological therapy. They are also very often referred to as growth factor inhibitors since they aim to disrupt the growth of the cancer cells inside your organism.
Only those patients who have particular proteins inside the cancer cells may be prescribed biological therapy. There may also be a need for the tests carried out on the sample of the cells taken from your lung. This way your doctor may see if the treatment is likely to help you.
This is a new type of a treatment procedure that is said to be able to treat non-small-cell lung cancer if it’s detected in the very beginning.
Here your doctor will need to use a CT scanner to be able to guide the needle to the site of the tumor. The needle will, then, be pressed inside the tumor and radio waves will be sent through the needle. There occurs heat that kills the cancer cells.
The most often complication that occurs after the procedure is a pocket of air that gets trapped in between the inner and outer layer of the lungs. This case is referred to as pneumothorax. It can be treated if there is a tube placed inside the lungs so that to drain the trapped air away.
Cryotherapy treatment may be an option if the cancer only starts to block your airways. This case is called endobronchial obstruction.
The obstruction can cause the following symptoms:
- Problems when breathing in and out.
- You may be coughing up blood.
Cryotherapy is carried out the same way as internal radiation therapy. The only exception is that instead of a radioactive source, a particular device called cryoprobe is used. It is put against your tumor. The cryoprobe generates very cold temperatures thus causing the tumor to shrink.
PDT or photodynamic therapy is the treatment procedure used in the very beginning of the lung cancer if a patient is either unwilling or unable to have a surgical operation. It can as well be used with the view of removing the tumor that has blocked the airways.
The therapy is performed in two stages. Firstly, you’re injected a drug that makes the cells inside your organism be very sensitive to light.
The next stage is performed 24-72 hours later. Doctors will guide a thin tube to the site where the tumor is located. Then, a laser will be beamed through it. Since the cancer cells are now more sensitive to light, they will be killed by this laser beam.
Possible side effects of the treatment include inflammation of the airways and accumulation of fluid in the lungs. Both these side effects can lead to such symptoms like breathlessness and painful sensations in the lungs and the throat. At the same time, do not forget that once you finish the treatment, the side effects will slowly go away.