Once a patient receives a cancer diagnosis from a licensed physician or specialist, treatment options are the next step. Appropriate treatment options are based off of the stage and type of cancer diagnosed coupled with the patient’s general health. An oncologist is a type of doctor that deals exclusively with cancer. The oncologist takes into consideration factors such as symptoms, daily lifestyle, activity level, and a patient’s opinion concerning quality of life in order to determine the best treatment. Lung cancer is labeled as being either a small-cell lung cancer or a non-small-cell lung cancer. Treatments vary by the type of cancer and the current stage. Treatment options specific to small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) patients normally include: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or any grouping of the three. New treatments for lung cancer are always in development.
Diagnosis of lung cancer, like other asbestos-induced cancers, such as mesothelioma, generally occurs in the later stages. These two types of cancer share long latency periods, with patients sometimes not exhibiting first symptoms until well after onset of the disease. Asbestos exposure is listed among the main causes of both. Treatment options for lung cancer caused by tobacco smoke, exposure to asbestos, or a combination of both, are generally the same.
Treatment options are divided among the two types of lung cancer. Small-cell lung cancer generally has more treatment options than non-small-cell lung cancer. A variety of treatments may be utilized in order to achieve better patient results. Lung cancer treatments include the following:
- Surgery- This is a broad term, encompassing four different surgical procedures. These surgeries differ in how much tissue is removed. A wedge section surgery removes a tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. A lobectomy is used to remove an entire lobe (section) of the lung. In a pneumonectomy surgery one whole lung is removed, and finally, a sleeve resection surgery removes part of the bronchus.
- Chemotherapy- This type of treatment attempts to stop the growth of cancer cells using drugs whose purpose is to kill the cells or stop them from dividing. These drugs enter the bloodstream via injection or ingestion. These drugs normally affect the cancerous cells within the placement site rather than the entire body. In other words, chemotherapy is concentrated.
- Radiation Therapy- High energy x-rays and other forms of radiation are used in this particular treatment. Radiation therapy is an option for both NSCLC and SCLC. Radiation therapy is divided into two types: external and internal, with the latter being the more invasive form of the two.
- Laser Therapy- This form of therapy utilizes an intense beam of light to kill cancerous cells.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – This is a newer treatment option developed for small-cell lung cancer. It involves the use of a light, which when shined on cancerous tissue activates special medications.
- Watchful Waiting- This type of treatment involves monitoring a patient’s condition for symptom development or change. It is a rare form of treatment performed in certain non-small-cell lung cancer patients.
New treatment options are constantly being developed as physicians and researchers learn more about cancer. Often there are options for clinical trials for new treatment; depending on the type of cancer a patient is diagnosed with. The aim of treatments is to improve patient survival rates. Treatment options are sometimes changed, furthered, or discontinued as the patient’s cancer goes through re-staging.