Table of Contents
- Lung cancer facts
- What is lung cancer?
- How common is lung cancer?
- What are the causes and risk factors for lung cancer?
- What causes lung cancer? (Part 2)
- What causes lung cancer? (Part 3)
- What are the types of lung cancer?
- What are lung cancer symptoms and signs?
- What specialists treat lung cancer?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose lung cancer?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose lung cancer? (Continued)
- How do health-care professionals determine lung cancer staging?
- What is the treatment for lung cancer?
- What is the treatment for lung cancer? (Part 2)
- What is the treatment for lung cancer? (Part 3)
- What is the prognosis and life expectancy of lung cancer?
- Is it possible to prevent lung cancer?
Quick GuideLung Cancer Symptoms, Stages, Treatment
What is the treatment for lung cancer? (Part 2)
Radiation: Radiation therapy may be employed as a treatment for both NSCLC and SCLC. Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill dividing cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be given as curative therapy, palliative therapy (using lower doses of radiation than with curative therapy), or as adjuvant therapy in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. The radiation is either delivered externally, by using a machine that directs radiation toward the cancer, or internally through placement of radioactive substances in sealed containers within the area of the body where the tumor is localized. Brachytherapy is a term used to describe the use of a small pellet of radioactive material placed directly into the cancer or into the airway next to the cancer. This is usually done through a bronchoscope.
Radiation therapy can be given if a person refuses surgery, if a tumor has spread to areas such as the lymph nodes or trachea making surgical removal impossible, or if a person has other conditions that make them too ill to undergo major surgery. Radiation therapy generally only shrinks a tumor or limits its growth when given as a sole therapy, yet in 10%-15% of people it leads to long-term remission and palliation of the cancer. Combining radiation therapy with chemotherapy can further prolong survival when chemotherapy is administered. A person who has severe lung disease in addition to a lung cancer may not be able to receive radiotherapy to the lung since the radiation can further decrease function of the lungs. A type of external radiation therapy called the "gamma knife" is sometimes used to treat single brain metastases. In this procedure, multiple beams of radiation coming from different directions are focused on the tumor over a few minutes to hours while the head is held in place by a rigid frame. This reduces the dose of radiation that is received by noncancerous tissues.
For external radiation therapy, a process called simulation is necessary prior to treatment. Using CT scans, computers, and precise measurements, simulation maps out the exact location where the radiation will be delivered, called the treatment field or port. This process usually takes 30 minutes to two hours. The external radiation treatment itself generally is done four or five days a week for several weeks.
SCLC often spreads to the brain. Sometimes people with SCLC that is responding well to treatment are treated with radiation therapy to the head to treat very early spread to the brain (called micrometastasis) that is not yet detectable with CT or MRI scans and has not yet produced symptoms. This is known as prophylactic brain radiation. Brain radiation therapy can cause short-term memory problems, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects.
Radiation therapy does not carry the risks of major surgery, but it can have unpleasant side effects, including fatigue and lack of energy. A reduced white blood cell count (rendering a person more susceptible to infection) and low blood platelet levels (making blood clotting more difficult and resulting in excessive bleeding) also can occur with radiation therapy. If the digestive organs are in the field exposed to radiation, patients may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Radiation therapy can irritate the skin in the area that is treated, but this irritation generally improves with time after treatment has ended.
American Cancer Society. "Lung Cancer." <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer/>.
American Lung Association. "Lung Cancer Fact Sheet." Nov. 3, 2016. <http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/learn-about-lung-cancer/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html>.
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Lung Cancer." Oct. 25, 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/>.
United States. National Cancer Institute. "Lung Cancer." <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung>.
2.Getty Images/Science Photo Library
3.iStock/ MedicineNet / American Cancer Society
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10.National Cancer Institute / Ytrottier/ iStock
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