Lung Cancer Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 1 April 2021

Lung Cancer Treatment

Your lung cancer treatment would be tailored to your specific needs. It will be determined in part by:

  • What type of cancer you have
  • The stage of your cancer
  • Whether the cancer has spread in your body
  • Where the cancer has spread to
  • The side effects of the treatments
  • Your age
  • Your general health
  • Your personal preferences

Inquire with your doctor about the recommended treatment plan, including the advantages, side effects, and how you might feel before and after it.

 

Surgery

When the disease hasn’t advanced so much through the body, this is a viable alternative. It’s typically the most successful treatment option for non-small-cell lung cancer.

Your specialist will remove the tumour from the lung as well as the surrounding tissue. Alternatively, the whole lung might need to be removed. Following the operation, you may require radiation or chemotherapy.

You may continue to remain in the hospital for around a week after the procedure to recover before returning home to rest. Minimally invasive treatments, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly common. If you want one of these, you might have a little incision in your chest. A thoracoscope, a thin tube used to inspect the chest and remove tissue, may be used by the doctor.

If you have small-cell lung cancer, an operation may not be possible to remove it.

Radiofrequency Ablation

This treatment may be an alternative if you have non-small-cell lung cancer and are unable to undertake surgery.

A small needle is placed through the skin by your doctor before it reaches the tumour within your lung. The cancer cells are then heated and destroyed by an electric current flowing through them.

 

Bronchoscopy

Tumours can sometimes obstruct the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Shortness of breath, a typical symptom of lung cancer, may result as a result of this. A bronchoscope, a small, translucent tube with a light at the end, can be used by the doctor to manage this. The doctor uses a laser to burn away any pieces of the tumour that are obstructing the airway.

It’s also used to insert a stent in the airway, which is a thin rough tube. This would keep the airway open to make breathing easier.

 

Thoracentesis

Fluid can accumulate between your lungs and the chest cavity as a result of lung cancer. This is known as pleural effusion.  It induces shortness of breath, coughing, and chest discomfort.

Your doctor can conduct a procedure called thoracentesis to remove the fluid. A small cut between the ribs is created to insert a needle or tube into your chest. During surgery, the tube can be withdrawn. However, if you continue to have fluid buildup, your doctor may decide to keep the tube in place for longer.

 

Radiation

To destroy a tumour, doctors use a computer that fires high-energy X-rays at it. It is effective against both non-small-cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer.

Over the span of many weeks, you can undergo radiation doses a few days at a time. It may be used before or during treatment to shrink a tumour to make it easier to remove or to destroy any cancer cells that remain after surgery. Any individual can receive it when doing chemotherapy.

It may also help with some of the side effects of lung cancer, such as pain and bleeding.

Chemotherapy

These medications work by killing cancer cells in the body. It may be used to treat most forms of lung cancer.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be provided before or after surgery. If surgery isn’t an option, it may be the primary treatment.

Your doctor can recommend a single chemo drug or a mixture of medicines. In a treatment room or hospital, you’ll receive them through an IV. It’s likely that you’ll require multiple treatment sessions spaced out over several weeks.

 

Immunotherapy

It’s a type of treatment in which doctors use medications to assist the body’s immune system in locating and eliminating cancer cells. Depending on the type of cancer you have, your doctor may prescribe medications.

Immunotherapy drugs include the following:

  • Atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
  • Durvalumab (Imfinzi)
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo)
  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)

These medications will be given to you as an IV infusion from your doctor. The treatment period will last anywhere from two to six weeks.

Immunotherapy may cause severe reactions or side effects, but these are uncommon. If you have a fever, chills, rash, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, contact the doctor or health care team right away.

 

Other Treatments

Researchers are still looking for new approaches to cure lung cancer to make people feel better and survive longer. New chemotherapy combinations, new types of radiation, and medications that render cancer cells more sensitive to radiation are now being researched by scientists.

Targeted therapies are medications that target certain portions of cancer cells or tumours. Some of them appear to aid in the treatment of lung cancer that has spread. They are as follows:

  • Afatinib (Gilotrif)
  • Alectinib (Alecensa)
  • Bevacizumab (Avastin)
  • Brigatinib (Alunbrig)
  • Ceritinib (Zykadia)
  • Crizotinib (Xalkori)
  • Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)
  • Dacomitinib (Vizimpro)
  • Erlotinib (Tarceva)
  • Gefitinib (Iressa)
  • Lorlatinib (Lorbrena)
  • Necitumumab (Portrazza)
  • Osimertinib (Tagrisso)
  • Ramucirumab ( Cyramza)
  • Tepotinib (Tepmetko)
  • Trametinib (Mekanist)

Lifestyle Changes

Making a few lifestyle changes while undergoing lung cancer treatment can help you stay healthy during the process. It’s never too late to stop smoking, and you may notice the effects almost immediately. It will assist you with regulating your blood pressure and heart rate.

Suggestions for avoiding smoking include:

  • Do not do it alone. Find a group of people who want to do it with you.
  • Manage your stress. It’s a common smoking inducer.
  • To manage the cravings, look for alternatives. Nicotine patches, cigarettes, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays are also options.

Consume nutritious, well-balanced meals. During treatment, healthy foods will help you remain strong and combat infections. Consult a dietitian if you’re unsure where to begin. They will assist you in formulating a meal plan that suits your needs.

Treatment for lung cancer will make you tired and fatigued. Light exercises such as stretching and light walking will help you remain active. Your mood and strength can improve as a result of this.

 

Mental Health Support

Treatments for lung cancer can have a serious impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. Seeking help when you go through the process is a good idea. Consult the cancer treatment staff with guidance about when to look for support and assistance.

Join a support group for lung cancer. This may be a safe forum for you to convey your thoughts regarding your cancer journey and find people going through similar experiences.

A patient navigator will assist you in scheduling appointments, treatment options, and medical insurance coverage.

A counsellor can help you manage and cope with any stress, anxiety, or depression you might be experiencing.

 

Palliative Care

Treatments may have a negative impact on the body, and you can experience discomfort in addition to other symptoms. Palliative care is a form of medical care in which doctors use medications to help you ease your pain and improve your overall quality of life. You can get this before, after, and during the treatment to better control the side effects.

It will assist with:

  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems with sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight fluctuations

Palliative care is beneficial for patients with lung cancer at any point. However, depending on the needs and stage, the quality of treatment you receive can vary. Consult the cancer treatment team to learn more about your choices and how they will benefit you.

 

Home Care After Treatment

If you’ve had lung cancer surgery, the nurse or doctor will be able to teach you how to care for your healing wound and tell you what will help you recover.

Wear loose-fitting clothes, avoid the sun and use sunscreen to protect the chest from UV rays, and use aloe vera or vitamin E cream to relieve skin discomfort from radiation therapy. Other skin lotions should only be used if the doctor approves. Also, avoid exposing the skin to extremes of heat or cold.

Sources

Referenced on 1.4.2021

  1. National Cancer Institute.
  2. National Institutes of Health.
  3. American Lung Association: “Supportive (Palliative) Care for Lung Cancer,” “Top Tips for quitting Smoking.”
  4. American Cancer Society: “Immunotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer,” “Bronchoscopy.”
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Manage Shortness of Breath with Lung Cancer,” “5 Healthy Habits That Help You During Lung Cancer Treatment,” “Support for Lung Cancer Treatment.”
  6. American Thoracic Society: “Thoracentesis.”
  7. Cleveland Clinic: “Pleural Effusion Causes, Signs & Treatment.”
  8. https://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/lung-cancer-treatment

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