Lung Cancer Treatment Options
Lung cancer treatment depends on a number of factors, including
the type of lung cancer (non-small
or small cell lung cancer),
the size, location, and extent of the tumor, and the general
health of the lung cancer patient. Many different treatments
and combinations of treatments may be used to control lung
cancer, and/or to improve quality of life by reducing symptoms.
- Surgery is an operation to remove the cancer.
The type of lung cancer surgery a doctor performs depends on the
location of the tumor in the lung. An operation to remove only
a small part of the lung is called a segmental or wedge resection.
When the surgeon removes an entire lobe of the lung, the procedure
is called a lobectomy. Pneumonectomy is the removal of an entire
lung. Some tumors are inoperable (cannot be removed by surgery)
because of the size or location, and some patients cannot have
surgery for other medical reasons.
- Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to
kill cancer cells throughout the body. Even after cancer has been
removed from the lung, cancer cells may still be present in nearby
tissue or elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy may be used to control
cancer growth or to relieve symptoms. Most anticancer drugs are
given by injection directly into a vein (IV) or by means of a
catheter, a thin tube that is placed into a large vein and remains
there as long as it is needed. Some anticancer drugs are given
in the form of a pill.
- Radiation Therapy, also called radiotherapy, involves
the use of high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy
is directed to a limited area and affects the cancer cells only
in that area. Radiation therapy may be used before surgery to
shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that
remain in the treated area. Doctors also use radiation therapy,
often combined with chemotherapy, as primary treatment instead
of surgery. Radiation therapy may also be used to relieve symptoms
such as shortness of breath. Radiation for the treatment of lung
cancer most often comes from a machine (external radiation). The
radiation can also come from an implant (a small container of
radioactive material) placed directly into or near the tumor (internal
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT), a type of laser therapy,
involves the use of a special chemical that is injected into the
bloodstream and absorbed by cells all over the body. The chemical
rapidly leaves normal cells but remains in cancer cells for a
longer time. A laser light aimed at the cancer activates the chemical,
which then kills the cancer cells that have absorbed it. Photodynamic
therapy may be used to reduce symptoms of lung cancer -- for example,
to control bleeding or to relieve breathing problems due to blocked
airways when the cancer cannot be removed through surgery. Photodynamic
therapy may also be used to treat very small tumors in patients
for whom the usual treatments for lung cancer are not appropriate.