3 Common Treatment Options For Lung Cancer (And What They Involve)

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If you have been recently diagnosed with lung cancer, you may have been referred to an oncologist (cancer specialist) or pulmonologist for further evaluation and treatment. There are various treatment options that are available to treat patients with lung cancer. Depending upon factors such as the type of lung cancer you have and what stage of cancer it is, your health care provider will recommend the best course of action, be it surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or another method. If you are wondering what the various treatment options involve, you might want to learn further details. The following is a list of the most common treatment options for patients with lung cancer:

1. Surgery for Lung Cancer

If you have small cell lung cancer that has not spread and is confined to the outer area of the lung, your pulmonologist or cancer specialist may recommend surgery. This method involves surgical removal of cancerous tissue in the lung. In some cases, part of the lung or the entire lung may need to be removed.

Surgery for non-small cell lung cancer is often performed in the early stage of the cancer. Because this type of surgery is very involved, an experienced lung cancer surgeon should be enlisted.

Surgery may not be an option if cancer cells have metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body. Before the procedure is to be performed, however, you will need to have tests performed. Tests will determine your pulmonary function, as well as determine if your vital organs are healthy enough to withstand the surgery.

When undergoing surgery for lung cancer, you will need to be placed in a deep sleep with general anesthesia. During the surgery, your surgeon may remove lymph nodes to be examined. This may indicate whether the cancer has spread. Upon awakening, you will be connected to draining tubes which will be inserted into your chest. This assists fluid drainage from the lungs.

As with any major surgery, complications from lung surgery are a possibility. Risks include hemorrhaging, blood clots, lung infections, or pneumonia. Recovery from your surgery may take several weeks or possibly months.

2. Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer

Chemotherapy involves the administration of cancer-killing medications. Cisplatin, carboplatin and etoposide are a few of the more common types of chemotherapy drugs used in this type of treatment.

These drugs are quite powerful and may shrink the cancer cells or kill them completely. Chemo may be administered through an intravenous drip or orally (often with the use of pills). In either case, you may require several treatment sessions, depending upon how you react to them.

If you are in poor health or you have a weakened immune system, you may not be an ideal candidate for chemotherapy. Chemo drugs are often very strong and produce various side effects. These drugs often suppress the immune system as well.

Sometimes cancer returns several months after chemotherapy. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe further chemotherapy treatments using the same drugs as before. However, if the drug therapy was unsuccessful initially, a different drug or drug may be used during chemo.

Side effects of chemotherapy medications include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of hair
  • Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Infections
  • Anemia

If you experience any of these side effects, consult your physician. You may be given medication to offset some of the side effects.

3. Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

Radiation therapy involves the use of high energy rays to eradicate cancer cells within the lungs. It may either be used as as a standalone treatment method or in conjunction with chemotherapy. In some cases, radiation therapy is used after lung cancer surgery. High beam radiation will utilize a machine to deliver a high dose of radiation.

A common side effect from radiation therapy include dryness of the mouth. To counteract this effect, your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve dry mouth.

Your best chances for treating lung cancer successfully is through early detection and intervention. Go to websites of local treatment centers to learn more.