More than ever, there are more cancer treatments than just chemo. The current treatments for lung cancer are: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted treatments immunotherapy, and combination therapy. Working with your thoracic oncologist, a personalized approach can be created based on determining a few important factors about your lung cancer.
Determining the Optimal Treatment for Lung Cancer
The two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) have different treatment pathways. Today, using genetic information about tumor type and what stage the disease is at allows healthcare teams to create personalized cancer treatments for lung cancer patients.
Your team of lung cancer physicians may include thoracic surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists. Treatments that are individualized to work with a patient’s specific lung cancer may help them avoid treatments that are unlikely to work. Individualized treatments also help to decrease the side effects of treatment.
According to Dr. Jessica Donington, of the University of Chicago Medical School and a member of the LCFA Scientific Advisory Board, almost any lung cancer patient might interact with a surgeon. Surgeons are involved with patients with advanced disease to determine staging and diagnosis. They interact with medical oncologists and radiation oncologists to help treat patients with Stage 3 (or locally advanced) disease.
Surgery might be an option for early-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It typically provides the best chance to cure the disease at this stage. The type of operation your doctor recommends depends on the size and location of the tumor in addition to how well your lungs are functioning. For more advanced tumors, surgery may also be used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, surgery may not be preferred in all early stage lung cancers. Your oncologist will be the best person to determine the best treatment for you. Learn more about the surgeries performed for lung cancer.
How is Radiation used for treating lung cancer?
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to destroy cancer cells.The type of radiation therapy most often used to treat SCLC is called external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). These techniques include:
- Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT)
- Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
FDA-Approved Drugs for Lung Cancer Treatment
Breakthroughs in research are happening at a faster pace leading to new FDA-approved treatments. These current lung cancer treatments and other personalized approaches to lung cancer treatment are not only improving a patient’s quality of life, but are even prolonging lives.
These current FDA-approved lung cancer treatments being used are grouped as:
Chemotherapy uses pills, medicines injected in your veins, or both to shrink or kill cancers. This treatment may be used alone or with radiation before or after surgery. Prepare for chemotherapy by learning what to expect.
Combination chemotherapy is the use of more than one medication at a time to treat lung cancer. Chemotherapy drugs affect these cancer cells at different points in the cell cycle.
Immunotherapy is another very effective treatment option that uses the body’s own immune response to fight the cancer without damaging healthy cells. In the past few years, lung cancer research has yielded new medications that can be used to stop cancer cells from being able to turn off the immune system. This allows it to do its work in battling cancer.
Targeted therapies are a type of personalized medicine that specifically target genetic mutations (changes in your genes) in cancer cells.
There is HOPE
“The beauty about where we are today is: with advances in lung cancer research, if a treatment stops working we have additional treatments in the pipeline.”
~ Kim Norris, President Lung Cancer Foundation of America