Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy are some of the treatment options for lung cancer. Find out more about this cancer, and how it is treated by reading this HealthHearty article.
Cancer that begins in the lung tissues is broadly classified into two types – small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer is less common, and it usually affects heavy smokers. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common, and it can be squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, or large cell carcinoma. The treatment of this cancer basically depends on the type, stage, as well as the age and overall health condition of the patient.
Causes and Symptoms
Smoking has been identified as the most important risk factor for lung cancer. Even exposure to secondhand smoke for a long time can significantly raise the risk of developing this cancer. Cigarette smoke damages the cells that constitute the epithelium of the lungs. In the initial stage, the damage can be repaired by the body, but after a period of time, the damage becomes irreversible with prolonged exposure.
However at times, people who do not smoke or who have not been exposed to secondhand smoke, can also develop this cancer. This is because, factors like lung diseases, exposure to asbestos and radon gas, excessive consumption of alcohol, and a family history of lung cancer have also been identified as some other important risk factors for this condition.
A cough that does not go away, or a change in the pattern of cough in people who already have chronic cough can be the early symptoms of this cancer. Other signs or symptoms that can be experienced in the early stage are, breathing problems, shortness of breath, hoarseness, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, constant chest pain, wheezing, coughing up blood, and frequent episodes of pneumonia and bronchitis. Apart from these, clubbing of the fingernails, headaches, and bone pain can be some other symptoms of this cancer.
The treatment of this cancer depends on the type and the stage at which the cancer is detected. Non-small cell lung cancer can be treated with surgery, while small cell lung cancer responds well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Other treatment options include, laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, and targeted drug therapy.
Surgery is considered the best treatment option, if the cancer is in the early stage, i.e., if it has not spread or metastasized. Surgery can be of four types – resection, sleeve resection, lobectomy, and pneumonectomy. In resection, a small part of the lung that contains the tumor is removed surgically, along with some healthy tissues. A sleeve resection involves the removal of a part of the bronchus. A lobectomy, on the other hand, refers to the removal of an entire lobe of the lung, while a pneumonectomy involves the removal of an entire lung.
Chemotherapy is the procedure where drugs are used to destroy the cancerous or malignant cells. The chemotherapy drugs can be taken orally or they can be administered intravenously. Chemotherapy can be used alone or along with surgery to treat lung cancer. If some cancerous cells remain in the lungs after the surgery, then chemotherapy is used to destroy them.
In radiation therapy, high-powered energy rays are employed to kill the cancerous cells. Usually, radiation therapy is used before surgery in order to shrink the cancerous tumors. Like chemotherapy, it can also be used after surgery to destroy the remaining cancerous cells. Usually, radiation or high-powered energy beams are administered from outside the body, which is known as external beam radiation. In some cases, a radioactive material is administered inside the body with the help of needles or catheters. This is known as internal radiation therapy.
Laser and Photodynamic Therapy
Laser and photodynamic therapy are two other treatment options for this cancer. In laser therapy, laser beams are used to kill the cancerous cells. Photodynamic therapy also uses laser beams for killing the cancerous cells. But in this therapy, a chemical is injected into the bloodstream, which is absorbed by the cancerous cells. The chemical gets activated when a laser is directed at these cells. The activated chemical then destroys the cancerous cells.
Targeted Drug Therapy
Apart from these, another treatment option is targeted drug therapy, where certain drugs are used to target some specific abnormalities of the cancer cells. For example, some drugs used in the targeted therapy can prevent the normal supply of blood to the cancerous cells, while others can inhibit the effects of certain chemicals that are associated with the growth of the malignant cells.
Most of these treatment options, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy, can have several side effects. Therefore, talk to your doctor to get in-depth information about the possible side effects and the risks associated with the various treatment options.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.