Once a lung cancer has been diagnosed, physicians will determine the cancer’s stage. Lung cancer staging determines where the tumor is located, in the right or left lung, and if it has spread to other parts of the body.
There are three treatment options available for lung cancer patients:
- Radiation Therapy
- Surgical Resection of the Tumor
Lung cancer may be treated with only one of these treatments or a combination of the three. Treating the disease successfully depends on the localization of the tumor, the extent of the tumor (size), and the patient’s overall health status.
The primary goal of treatment is either to remove the tumor, placing the patient into remission, or to limit the amount of pain and suffering associated with the cancer. If the patient goes into remission, it means they have been cancer free for a certain amount of time and the cancer has not spread to any other parts of the body.
Common Treatment Options
Chemotherapy is the use of chemical agents (drugs) to stop the growth of cancer by either killing tumorous cells or preventing them from dividing and spreading. Chemotherapy can be administered in pill form or as an intravenous infusion. It may also be given in a combination of the two forms.
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss, loss of appetite, blood clotting, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and mouth sores. The majority of chemotherapy treatments are usually performed as outpatient procedures and they occur over a span of a couple of weeks or months with breaks in between.
Radiation therapy is the use of ionizing radiation beams to kill fast-dividing cancer cells. Radiation therapy is typically administered in conjunction with surgery or chemotherapy, but it may serve as the sole treatment modality in some cases. Patients that are not candidates for surgery are common recipients of high dose radiation therapy.
Surgery is the treatment of choice for patients with Stage I or Stage II lung cancer. Around 10%-35% of lung cancers can be removed surgically, but the removal of the tumor does not always guarantee a cure. Cancerous cells might have spread to other locations throughout the body, allowing the cancer to recur at another time.
There are different surgical procedures available for the removal of a lung tumor. The choice of the surgery depends on how large the tumor is and the location of the tumor. During lung cancer surgery, the surgeon will remove either a portion of one lobe, an entire lobe (lobectomy), or an entire lung (pneumonectomy).