Several lung cancer treatments are currently available and the determination as to which one is prescribed depends on the lung cancer stage that has been diagnosed, the location of the cancer, and the patient’s health. The most common treatments for lung cancer include Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy, and Targeted Therapy.
Surgery involves cutting away a cancerous tumor and a portion of the tissue that has surrounded the tumor. Sometimes the surgical treatment involves removal of the entire affected lung. Surgery is often effective, but recovery time can be long. Because the surgeon will have to cut through the rib cage to get to the lungs, there will be pain and bed rest for one to two months after the procedure.
In addition to traditional surgical methods, other types of surgical procedures can be used depending on the location of the tumor and also the patient’s physical condition. A craniotomy, which is basically surgery performed through a hole made to the skull can be prescribed to tumors located in the brain. For small tumors, a procedure whereby a video camera is inserted into a tiny incision helps the surgeon zero in on a tumor. Because the incision is small, pain is generally reduced.
Radiation can either be used by itself or in conjunction with a surgical procedure. Radiation can be beamed directly at the cancerous tumor from the outside of the body using a laser, or radiation can be delivered directly to the tumor via a small pellet. When a patient’s overall state of health is poor, radiation is a better alternative than undergoing a surgical procedure. In cases where surgery has been performed, radiation might also be prescribed as a way to remove the cancerous cells that for whatever reason could not be surgically removed. Radiation to remove brain tumors can result in changing the brain’s functionality later on, but may be the only option.
Chemotherapy is actually a drug that works to remove cancer by way of the bloodstream. Chemotherapy drugs can be taken either orally or administered via an injection into a vein. Because the bloodstream can carry the drug throughout the body, Chemotherapy is often the preferred treatment when lung cancer has spread well beyond the lungs. One problem associated with chemotherapy is that it can also cause damage to healthy cells and the cells that produce blood that reside within the bone marrow. Low blood counts can lead to a number of different problems so Chemotherapy treatment must be closely monitored.
Targeted Therapy is a relatively new treatment option that does show promise. Instead of focusing on destroying damaged cells (which can also damage healthy cells), these drugs instead are designed to interfere with a cancerous cell’s ability to grow. Right now, Targeted Therapy drugs are given to patients only after other treatment options have been attempted. And unfortunately, Targeted Therapy has not been effective for all patients.
Each lung cancer treatment option has benefits, risks and frequently, side effects. Deciding which option is best is something that only a doctor and patient can determine.