By Hospals Team Blog Published on - 23 April - 2021

Lung cancer: what, why, how's of the treatment

Oncology

What is lung cancer?

When the cells in the body start growing beyond control, it takes a form of the disease known as cancer. When this disease occurs in the lungs, then it is termed as lung cancer. The cancer spreads all over the lymph nodes, and in some instances, it might apply to various parts of the body. It is also possible that cancer can reach your lungs from other organs. And when the disease starts spreading to multiple organs, it is called metastases.

Whether or not lung cancer is ever curable remains a hard question to answer at a simple enough level. And while there is always a possibility (sometimes quite a small one) that cancer may return even after it's been in remission for several years, it is still unclear why it would reoccur though. The problem with determining whether or not cancer will return is that the answer is inevitably relative. This is because the symptoms of a particular cancer are unique from person to person. It is impossible to predict what cancer will look like or feel like based solely on a patient's medical history.

Types of Lung Cancer

Non-small cell and small cell lung cancer are two types of primary lung cancers. The name is derived from how to do the cells of cancer look under the microscope. In comparison, non-small cell lung cancer is more common. To determine the type of cancer, the doctor will conduct a test to look for any genetic mutation (change in genes). Based on the test results, the right treatment is then decided. Once it has been established that a person has cancer, various other tests determine what all organs have been affected. This whole process is known as staging.

Types of Treatment

Getting a definite answer as to whether or not cancer will return, is, to have a good understanding of what causes this cancer in the first place. There are several different theories on the exact cause, but none offers a guarantee as to the treatment of lung cancer, whether it has long-term survival potential or not. Many other theories provide therapy of sorts, that may lengthen when cancer cells arrive in the body, and when treatment is necessary to kill them off. Any delay can make treatments more harmful than helpful since they increase the chances of cancer returning while decreasing the likelihood of medicine being useful in the first place.

Some of the treatment options that are most often employed in the fight against lung cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and biological therapy. While many people choose to use all or some of these methods, each treatment's effectiveness can vary, as can the overall outlook on life after treatment. When considering lung cancer treatment with a good chance of returning, it is also essential to think about what the cancer reoccurrence would mean in terms of how long treatment would be necessary. Since the cancer cells are still present in the body at the same stage, the amount of therapy typically recommended by physicians would involve treating the cancer cells and helping any other tissues affected by the cancer cells.

Surgery – In this operation, the doctor cuts off the cancer tissue.

Chemotherapy – This is the method used to kill shrinking cancer with the help of particular medicines. These medicines can either be given in the form of pills or directly into your veins.

Radiation therapy – The process of eliminating cancer with the help of high-energy rays.

Targeted therapy – The growth and spread of the cancer cells are blocked with the help of certain drugs, and the process of giving them is the same – either given in the form of pills or directly supplied into your body via veins.

Chemotherapy is often used as the primary treatment of choice for patients who have already had some success in getting rid of the cancer cells in the body. It involves taking medication that is designed to help lessen the effects of chemotherapy. Sometimes, doctors will use targeted therapy to help with the symptoms of the treatment. This type of treatment can come from medication, surgery, radiation therapy, breathing and drug therapies, and immune system stimulation.

Chemotherapy can be costly, mainly if done to treat more than one type of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs carry a wide range of possible side effect. Some of these side effects include nausea, weight gain, hair loss, and fatigue. Besides, these some patients may also experience depression. While these side effects are not expected to last indefinitely, they are worth mentioning.

Side effects caused by drugs are only one problem faced by patients undergoing treatment. There can also be a risk of developing an addiction to certain medications. If this happens, the medicine that is being taken will need to be reduced or stopped altogether. As an alternative to this, some medical oncologists will prescribe a combination of medications that can help relieve symptoms and monitor and change the dosage if needed. Again, this combination will only be useful if the medical oncologist can keep a close eye on the patient's medical history.

This combination of drugs is often referred to as a 'first-line treatment'. The mixture usually follows a successful treatment of the lung tumour itself. If the lung tumour is benign (no cancerous cells are present in the lung tumour), it is improbable that other treatment will be necessary. However, if the tumor is malignant, a combination will likely be required. This means that the doctor will try various combinations until he finds one that works.

Because combining several different medications can be very complicated, many doctors choose to assign patients to just one type of therapy. Doctors sometimes decide to give three to four patients to receive immunotherapy. This treatment method means that the doctors do not have to research to discover which combination will work best. For some patients, this can be very helpful because they do not want to undergo too many drug interactions. Unfortunately, some doctors do not prefer this method because patients may become too dependent on receiving these particular medications.

Finding the right treatment

It is quite hard to determine which treatment is right for you. To find out about the various options for treatment, consult with your cancer doctor. He or she will be able to tell more about the stage and type of your cancer. Furthermore, you will be able to learn more about the benefits and risks of all the treatments along with their side effects (if any).