How is lung cancer treated?
Lung cancer treatment depends on its pathological type. Lung cancers are broadly divided into two types, Non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer. NSCLC again divided into squamous, adeno and other type of cancers. Lung cancer is treated with multiple different modalities and the chosen sequence and type of modality often depends on the type of cancer that the patient has and how far the cancer has spread.
What are the treatment options for non-small cell lung cancer?
Non-small cell lung cancer has a variety of treatment options that include:
Surgical options for lung cancer are usually done in stage 1 and stage 2, this procedure of treatment is mainly done to remove the tumor. The extent of surgery may be from segmentectomy (small lung part ) to Pneumonectomy (whole single side lung)
In the case of non small cell lung cancer studies have shown that, when patients are given adjuvant chemotherapy, which is chemotherapy that has been given after the surgical removal of the tumor, the cancer has very little chances of coming back. For people with stage 3 lung cancer, chemotherapy is given in combination with radiation as the tumor cannot be surgically removed. In stage 4 chemotherapy or targeted therapy is considered to be the main treatment.
Read more on drugs used in the treatment of lung cancer
Neoadjuvant treatment is treatment where chemotherapy is given before surgery or radiation. This kind of treatment may help with shrinking the tumor into a smaller size which makes it easier to remove it surgically.
Targeted treatment is the kind of treatment that is designed specifically to attack only the cancer cells by attaching or blocking targets (specific proteins) that appear on the surface of the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy has become the newest method of treatment for lung cancer. Immunotherapy is a well tolerated treatment and causes minimal sides effects because of its mechanism of action. Immunotherapy is of four categories:
- Monoclonal antibodies
These are lab generated antibodies that target specific tumor antigens in the body
- Checkpoint inhibitors
These are target molecules and act as checkers, they also balance and regulate immune responses.
- Therapeutic vaccines
These act tumor specific vaccines
- Adoptive T-cell transfer
In this approach T-cells, which are a kind of white blood cells are removed from the patient’s body and are chemically treated to enhance the chemical response and are reintroduced into the patient’s body to enhance the immune systems anticancer response.
Read in detail about how lung cancer is diagnosed
What are the treatment options for small cell lung cancer?
Small cell lung cancer has three main treatment options and they are listed below:
Chemotherapy and radiation
For people with small cell lung cancer, regardless of what stage the cancer is at, chemotherapy is an important treatment. For people with limited stage small cell lung cancer, they are given chemotherapy in combination with radiation and for people with extensive stage small cell lung cancer they are given chemotherapy alone.
Preventive radiation therapy
Preventive radiation therapy is mainly used in patients who’s lung cancer has responded well to chemotherapy and preventive radiation therapy is prescribed to stop cancer from spreading to the brain, because with small cell lung cancer, there is a tendency for the cancer to spread to the brain.
A very small percentage of people with limited stage small cell lung cancer benefit from surgery only if there are no lymph node tumors. After the surgery , they are given adjuvant chemotherapy.