Lung Cancer Treatment Options
Treatment for lung cancer is very much determined by the type and stage of cancer – including how far the cancer has spread from its location of origin – as well as the patient’s overall health and ability to withstand the side effects that can often develop from different types of treatment. Overall, the goal is always to eradicate the cancer as much as possible and deliver the patient with good health and an excellent quality of life. The oncology team will provide the most aggressive treatment as possible to reach these goals within the limits of what the patient is able to tolerate comfortably.
The typical treatments for lung cancer include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Surgery – During a surgical procedure, the surgeon will determine how best to address the cancer. A decision will be made, determined by how to best remove the tumor without affecting surrounding tissue. Some choices include removing the tumor itself along with a small portion of the healthy lung surrounding it, removing the lobe of the lung in which the tumor resides (called a lobectomy), removing the portion of the lung in which the tumor resides (a segmentectomy), or removing the entire lung (pneumonectomy). There is also a treatment called radiofrequency ablation in which the surgeon uses an electric current that is delivered to the tumor by needle insertion. The current, in turn, breaks up the tumor.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy – These are often used as adjuvant therapy, essentially follow-up treatment to surgery to lower the risk of the cancer returning.
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment whereby medication is delivered through IV or by pill through the entire bloodstream. There are a variety of side effects that can result from chemotherapy but it is one of the ways to access the entire body so that the risk of cancer returning – even to other parts of the body – is reduced.
Radiation therapy destroys cancer cells with the use of high doses of radiation delivered through external-beam radiation to the specific effected area.
In many cases, these therapies will be combined to offer the patient the very best chance of eradicating their cancer and reducing their risk of a recurrence. As lung cancer tends to be an aggressive type of cancer that can greatly impact a patient’s quality of life, it is often met by doctors with an equally aggressive treatment plan that maximizes the chances of success.