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 medical professional 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, or SCLC and NSCLC respectively. Treatments vary by the type of cancer and the current stage. Treatment is not affected by the causation of the cancer.
Research has linked several causations to lung cancer, predominately, tobacco smoking. However, another link to lung and related cancers, such as mesothelioma, are also the result of exposure to asbestos. A material once used as insulation for chemical plants and similar industries, asbestos, has also been proven as a human carcinogen. Mesothelioma, like lung cancer, has a long latency period. As a result, treatment options are sometimes limited due to the diagnosis not occurring until the cancer has progressed into the later stages.
- Surgery- This is a broad term, encompassing four different surgical procedures. These surgeries differ by 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 treatment utilizes strong drugs to slow, stop, or kill cancerous cells. The types of chemotherapy drugs vary and can be given in any number of combinations, as well as being coupled with other procedures such as surgery or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is what is known as a systemic therapy, in that it treats the entire body. Traveling through the bloodstream, chemotherapy is capable of killing cells that have metastasized from the original tumor. Chemotherapy dosage varies in the amount and length of treatment depending on the patient. Mostly delivered intravenously, chemotherapy can sometimes be taken orally
- Laser Therapy- This form of therapy utilizes an intense beam of light to kill cancerous cells.
- 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.
- Radiation Therapy- Also known as radiotherapy, radiation can be an effective treatment for lung cancer. High-energy rays, stronger than x-rays, are used to kill or shrink cancer cells. It is likely that an external source of energy will be utilized; however, researchers are working to develop radioactive implants or “seeds” into or near the cancer site. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation targets a specific area of the body, with precise periods of time and local, helping to decrease tissue damage to the surrounding areas. The doses given in this form of treatment are usually spaced out over weeks and sometimes months; this is because the amount of radiation necessary cannot be administered all at once. The number of treatments given and exact dosage is dependent on how the patient reacts to radiation and the extent of the tumor. External radiation therapy is used as either the main source of treatment for lung cancer or after surgery in order to treat metastases.
New treatments are constantly being researched and developed with the help of clinical trials. These trials, for some patients, are an optimistic treatment choice. 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.