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Lung Cancer Treatments

There are a wide variety of treatments for lung cancer that may be conventional, experimental or supportive. The combination of these treatments is what we call integrative care.

The treatments or combination of treatments recommended for you will depend on the specific type and/or subtype of your cancer, the location of your tumor(s), the stage of your cancer’s development and your overall health or other medical conditions.

You may work with our doctors, nurses and other cancer healthcare professionals to develop your personalized treatment plan.

They will facilitate your care and answer your questions as you progress through your cancer-fighting therapies, so you can focus on the one thing that is most important – healing.

Surgery

Surgery can be involved in diagnosing, staging and treating your cancer, and it can relieve pain or other problems related to your cancer. Advances in surgical techniques provide a better chance for optimal outcomes.

Diagnosis
– Surgery can help diagnose cancer when a surgeon removes a tiny piece of suspicious tissue (called a sample) and sends it to a pathology laboratory. There the sample can be examined under a microscope and other tests can be performed on it. This is called a biopsy.

Staging
– During cancer surgery, the area around the cancer, including lymph nodes and nearby organs, is examined to find out how much cancer has developed and how far it has spread. This information is important because it guides decisions about further treatment.

Curative – When cancer is found in a limited area and it’s likely all of it can be removed, surgery may be the main treatment, although it may still be used with chemotherapy or radiation.

Debulking
– When removing an entire tumor would cause too much damage to nearby organs or tissue, a surgeon may remove as much of the cancer as possible and then rely on radiation, chemotherapy or other treatments to treat the remainder of the tumor.

Palliative Procedures
– This type of surgery can fix problems that are causing pain or disability. It helps you feel better, but is not designed to cure your cancer.  

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is targeted to kill your cancer cells. It can be given from a machine outside the body or from objects put inside the body.

  • External beam radiation – A machine sends painless high-energy beams aimed directly at the tumor and some of the area around the tumor. Sometimes the radiation passes through your body; with newer technology the radiation can be set to stop at the tumor, which protects tissue behind the tumor.
  • Internal radiation therapy – A radioactive implant that looks like a wire, a pellet or seeds is surgically implanted adjacent to or even inside the cancer tumor, and the radiation travels only a very short distance.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy, often referred to simply as chemo, is the name of the process that uses drugs to work throughout your body to kill cancer cells that may have spread far away from the original site where your cancer started. You may get it at home, in your doctor’s office, in a clinic or in the hospital.

You may get chemo treatments daily, weekly or monthly, but they’re usually given in on-and-off cycles that allow healthy new cells to grow and you to regain your strength.

Chemo usually is given intravenously through a tiny, soft plastic tube called a catheter. Sometimes chemo can be given as a pill or through other drug delivery systems.

Because chemo may weaken your immune system, it’s important to practice good hygiene such as hand washing, make sure your vaccinations including flu shots are up to date, and avoid people or pets who are sick.

Your caregivers should be very careful to avoid contact with your body fluids.

Chemotherapy has three goals:

  • Cure – This is always a goal, not a guarantee.  It takes years to know if cancer is really destroyed, gone and unable to come back.
  • Control – Chemo is used to shrink tumors or stop cancer from growing and spreading. This can help you feel better and live longer. Even if the cancer doesn’t totally go away, it may be controlled and managed as a chronic disease.
  • Palliation – When cancer is advanced, chemo may be used to shrink a tumor that’s causing pain or pressure and ease your symptoms that interfere with living.  

Targeted chemotherapy aims its cell-killing power at the parts of cancer cells that make them different from healthy body cells. It may be used as part of the main treatment or it may be used after traditional treatment ends to keep your cancer under control or to stop it from coming back.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, sometimes called biologic therapy or biotherapy, uses your body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Your immune system is a collection of organs, special cells and substances that naturally work to protect you from infection and disease. It can also protect you from cancer.

The main types of immunotherapy include:

Stem Cell Transplants

If your blood-forming stem cells have been damaged or destroyed by chemo or radiation, stem cell transplants can restore your ability to produce your own new stem cells that can grow into red or white blood cells or platelets.

Stem cells may come from you, harvested and stored prior to your radiation or chemo. They may also come from a twin, a blood relative or someone who is not related but whose tissue is compatible with yours.

Hyperthermia

Research has shown that exposure to high temperatures – up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit – can damage or kill cancer cells and thus shrink tumors with minimal injury to normal tissue.

Hyperthermia is only available through clinical trials. 

Laser Therapy

Laser, the abbreviation for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, is unlike ordinary light that has many wavelengths and spreads in all directions. 

A laser is focused in a narrow beam that creates a very high-intensity light that can cut through steel or shape diamonds.

Because lasers can focus accurately on tiny areas, they can be used for precise surgical work, cutting through tissue without a scalpel. They can be used to shrink or destroy tumors. 

Photodynamic Therapy

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) uses a drug called a photosensitizing agent that, when exposed to a specific wavelength of light, forms a type of oxygen that kills nearby cells.

Although the photosensitizing agent is carried throughout the body through the bloodstream, it stays in cancer cells longer than in normal cells. With proper timing, PDT kills nearby cancer cells, prevents the tumor from receiving necessary nutrients for it to continue to grow and stimulates your own immune system to fight the cancer cells.

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