Treating Lung Cancer
The lungs are amongst the hardest working organs in the body. They expand and contract up to 20 times a minute; to supply oxygen which is distributed to tissues all across the body and expel carbon dioxide which is created throughout the body.
Cancer in the lungs is common and people who smoke are at the highest risk of contracting lung cancer. The risk of lung cancer increases with the duration of smoking period and the number of cigarettes smoked. The silver lining though is that if one quits this habit even after several years, one can significantly reduce the chances of developing lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Symptoms that occur in the advanced stage of the disease
- A new cough that doesn’t go away
- Changes in a chronic cough or ‘smoker’s cough’
- Coughing blood, even small amounts
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Unexpected weight loss
- Bone pain
Having any of these symptoms does not mean it is cancer, but if one or more of them is noticed for more than two weeks, then a doctor must be seen and an immediate health screening is a must.
Risk factors include smoking, passive smoking, exposure to radon gas, asbestos and a family history of lung cancer. People with an increased risk of lung cancer should take annual CT scans to look for the disease. Also, smokers of 55 years of age or older and even those who used to smoke earlier should check with their doctor about screening for lung cancer.
In order to diagnose lung cancer, the doctor may recommend:
- Imaging tests: An X-ray image of your lungs may reveal an abnormal mass or nodule. A CT scan can reveal small lesions in your lungs that might not be detected in an X-ray.
- Sputum cytology: Observing the sputum under the microscope can sometimes reveal the presence of lung cancer cells.
- Tissue sample (biopsy): Lung cancer may be treated by surgery which would be either a Wedge resection, to remove a small section of the lung that contains the tumor along with a margin of healthy tissue, or Segmental resection to remove a larger portion of the lung but not the entire lobe or Lobectomy, to remove the entire lobe of one lung or a Pneumonectomy to remove an entire lung.
Chemotherapy is often used to kill cancer cells that may remain after surgery.
Radiation therapy can be directed from outside the body (external beam radiation) or it can be put inside needles, seeds or catheters and placed inside the body near the cancer (Brachytherapy).
An advanced form of radiation therapy called Proton Therapy is now available at Apollo Proton Cancer Centre, Chennai which delivers high dose radiation to destroy the tumour completely with zero radiation to the healthy lung tissues around the tumour. This radically reduces the side effects of radiation therapy as the healthy tissues are not affected.
Targeted therapies are newer cancer treatments that work by targeting specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Targeted therapy options for treating lung cancer include Bevacizumab, Erlotinib, Crizotinib and others.