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Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer Treatment Options

The type of treatment you receive for lung cancer will depend on the type of lung cancer that you've been diagnosed with, as well as the stage and your overall health. The experts at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard will walk you through your personalized lung cancer care treatment options.

Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Different types of treatment are available for patients with small-cell lung cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials (potential new treatments).

A clinical trial is a cancer research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with a particular type of cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial, although some are open only to patients who have not started treatment. Learn more about clinical trials available at Cancer Care Centres of Brevard.

The right set of treatments for each patient is decided by the CCCB team with many years of experience treating lung cancer.

Surgery for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Surgery can be used for patients with small cell lung cancer, although it’s not usually the only treatment since SCLC is often found in both lungs and beyond. Four types of lung cancer surgery are commonly used. The best type for you will be decided by your cancer surgeon.

  1. Wedge resection: Surgery to remove a tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. When a slightly larger amount of tissue is taken, it is called a segmental resection.
  2. Lobectomy: Surgery to remove a whole lobe (section) of the lung.
  3. Pneumonectomy: Surgery to remove one whole lung.
  4. Sleeve resection: Surgery to remove part of the bronchus, the tubes leading from your nose and mouth to your lungs.

Surgery is typically followed by chemotherapy and/or other types of cancer treatments depending on if you have limited or extensive stage small cell lung cancer.

Other Treatments for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It’s especially important when the cancer cells have traveled outside of the area where it started. Most patients with small cell lung cancer don’t receive their diagnosis until it’s spread which makes chemotherapy an important part of the treatment process.

  • Limited stage small cell lung cancer patients often receive chemotherapy with radiation therapy. This is called chemoradiation.
  • Patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer may be given chemotherapy as their primary treatment, with or without immunotherapy depending on the patient. Radiation therapy may also be added to the cancer treatment plan.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

In addition to surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy (used for Small Cell Lung Cancer) there are some other treatment options used for the treatment of NSCLC. They include:

  • Targeted therapy - This type of lung cancer treatment uses drugs or other substances to attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do. Monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are the two main types of targeted therapy being used to treat advanced, metastatic, or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Laser therapy - Use of a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to kill cancer cells.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) - A lung cancer treatment that uses a drug and a certain type of laser light to kill cancer cells. The drug, which is not active until it’s been exposed to light, collects in cancer cells at a higher concentration than in normal cells. When the cells are exposed to the light, cells with the injected drug in them are killed. Because normal cells don’t take up as much of the drug, there is much less damage to healthy cells than to cancer cells. It is used mainly to treat tumors on or just under the skin or in the lining of internal organs. When the tumor is in the airways, PDT is given directly to the tumor through an endoscope.
  • Cryosurgery - Cryosurgery is a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy. For tumors in the airways, cryosurgery is done through an endoscope.

Depending on the stage of the non-small cell lung cancer, the treatment plan will be adjusted, below is an idea of what treatment plans may look like for each of the stages.

  • Occult Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer treatment depends on where the cancer has spread. It can usually be cured by surgery.
  • Stage 0 treatment may include:
    • Surgery (wedge resection or segmental resection).
    • Photodynamic therapy using an endoscope.
    • Electrocautery, cryosurgery, or laser surgery using an endoscope.
  • Stage I treatment may include:
    • Surgery (wedge resection, segmental resection, sleeve resection, or lobectomy).
    • External radiation therapy (for patients who cannot have surgery or choose not to have surgery).
  • Stage II treatment may include:
    • Surgery (wedge resection, segmental resection, sleeve resection, lobectomy, or pneumonectomy).
    • External radiation therapy (for patients who cannot have surgery or choose not to have surgery).
    • Surgery followed by chemotherapy.
  • Stage III non-small lung cancer treatment is divided into Stage IIIA and Stage IIIB:
    • Stage IIIA: Non-small cell lung cancer that can be removed with surgery may include surgery followed by chemotherapy.
      • Non-small cell lung cancer that cannot be removed with surgery may include:
        • Chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy.
        • External radiation therapy alone (for patients who cannot be treated with combined therapy).
      • Some Stage IIIA non-small cell lung tumors that have grown into the chest wall may be completely removed, and treatment of chest wall tumors may include:
        • Surgery
        • Surgery and radiation therapy
        • Radiation therapy alone
        • Chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy and/or surgery.
    • Stage IIIB treatment may include:
      • Chemotherapy combined with external radiation therapy.
      • External radiation therapy as palliative therapy, to relieve pain and other symptoms and improve the quality of life.
  • Stage IV treatment may include:
    • External radiation therapy as palliative therapy, to relieve pain and other symptoms and improve the quality of life
    • Combination chemotherapy
    • Combination chemotherapy and targeted therapy
    • Laser therapy and/or internal radiation therapy using an endoscope.

Chemoprevention

Some patients are given chemoprevention as a way of reducing the likelihood of a new lung tumor developing. This includes the use of vitamins, chemotherapy and/or other drugs proven to reduce the risk of a new cancerous tumor in the lungs.

Follow-up Tests May be Needed

For both small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, some of the tests that were done to diagnose the type or stage of lung cancer may need to be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This is sometimes called re-staging.

Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.