Lung cancer remains one of the most common cancers diagnosed each year among men and women.
According to the American Cancer Society, this year nearly 220,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer.
The one-year survival rate for lung cancer has increased from 34 percent in 1975 to 42 percent in 1998.
Smoking And Lung Cancer
Smoking greatly increases your chances of developing lung cancer. Other risk factors include exposure to substances like second-hand smoke, arsenic, some organic chemicals, radon, asbestos, air pollution and tuberculosis.
If you haven’t already quit smoking, the potential health benefits begin immediately.
For patients with lung cancer, quitting smoking makes treatment more effective.
Quitting smoking also reduces the risks of infections, such as pneumonia, improves breathing, and reduces the risks associated with surgery.
Lung cancer is divided into two general types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These groupings are made based upon the tumor’s appearance under a microscope and may help with decisions about treatment. Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. There are three general types of non-small cell lung cancer – squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
Treatment For Lung Cancer
Lung cancer treatment depends on several factors, including the type and size of the cancer, its location, and your overall health. During treatment, a team of doctors will be involved in your care, including a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist and a surgeon.
Non-small cell lung cancer may be treated first with surgery. Your doctor may also suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy either alone or in combination.
Small cell lung cancer is often treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy either at the same time or one right after the other.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy involves a series of daily radiation treatments targeting your lung tumor. Radiation treatments usually last less than 5 minutes but your appointment time is 15-30 minutes each day.
Usually non-small cell lung cancer treatments are delivered daily, Monday to Friday, for three to seven weeks. For small cell lung cancer, you doctor may recommend treatment twice a day for three weeks or daily for 6 weeks. The number of treatments may also depend upon several other factors, including tumor size and location, other treatments you are receiving, and other medical conditions.
3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT)combines multiple radiation treatment fields to deliver radiation to the lung and often lymph nodes. Each of the radiation beams accurately focuses on the tumor while trying to minimize nearby healthy tissue receiving radiation.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)is a form of 3D-CRT that may allow more precise delivery of radiation to the tissues within the target area, possibly allowing a higher radiation dose to the tumor and keeping more radiation away from nearby normal tissues.
Possible side effects of treatment include skin irritation, difficulty or pain when swallowing, shortness of breath, cough and fatigue. However, the likelihood of these symptoms depends upon of many factors that your doctor will discuss with you at the time of your visit.
During treatment, talk to your doctor about any discomfort you feel. He or she may be able to provide medications or other treatments that may help.
Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation (PCI)
After initial treatment for small cell lung cancer, sometimes further radiation to the brain is recommended to prevent the tumor from coming back. Called prophylactic cranial irradiation, this treatment is not recommended for all patients. Currently it is not recommended in non-small cell lung cancer except on clinical trials. Ask your doctor whether this treatment is appropriate for you.
Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy
Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) is a form of high dose, high precision radiation treatments which can be utilized to cure early stage lung cancer, when surgery is not possible or not preferred. SBRT relies upon image guidance, patient immobilization and advanced radiation treatment techniques for planning and delivery or radiation. Ask your doctor if this might be a good option in the treatment of your lung cancer.