Although lung cancer is generally operable by using either traditional open surgery, or one of the less intrusive and more sophisticated video-assisted thoracoscopic surgeries (VATS), often it may not be considered to be the best option for a patient. Where ill-health is a factor, or either the size and location of the tumor is deemed to be a problem, other forms of treatment may well have to be considered.
However, other forms of treatment may also depend much on the type of lung cancer that is being treated, and it’s staging. Be it the more rapid growing Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) that makes up for between 10% to 15% of all diagnosed cases, or the more common and slower growing Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).
The most common of these treatment options may include:
1. Chemotherapy still tends to be the most widely used lung cancer treatment today, which uses a cocktail of over 100 different drugs that destroy cancerous cells, and help stop their spread. However, although considered to be an acceptable treatment, it does tend to cause many horrendous side-effects.
2. External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) is usually offered when lung cancer is either considered to be primary, or when it has metastasized (spread to other organs). This form of treatment uses a linear accelerator machine to focus a precise beam of radiation on any given area of the body for a precise period of time, which in turn kills off its cancerous cells.
Although still widely used, EBRT is now actually considered to be old hat, and for that reason is slowly being replaced by a range of newer and more efficient technologies.
Newer technologies include:
1. Three-Dimensional Conformal Radiation Therapy (3D-CRT) which is used to deliver a precise dose of multiple radiation treatment fields to a patient.
2. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is also used by modifying radiation beams by varying their intensity. This is a more specialized form of the 3D-CR treatment.
3. Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) delivers small high doses of radiation to a precise target within the body. This type of treatment is usually considered for early stage lung cancer.
4. Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) is the most advanced radiation treatment available to date; however, due to its recent development, it is still not widely available for use. Rather than using X-rays as previous with treatments, PBT concentrates on the use of proton beams to kill off cancer cells.
5. Internal Beam Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy) may be used as a stand-alone treatment, or with chemotherapy to shrink the tumor before an operation, or when the patient is unable to be operated on due to the size or location of the tumor. Brachytherapy tends to cause less damage than other treatment types due to its preciseness. It uses a bronchoscope, which is a flexible lighted instrument inserted into the area of the trachea (windpipe) to relieve the airways that may be blocked by placing small amounts of radioactive material either directly into the cancerous cells, or next to them.
6. Clinical Trial Treatments may also be used where a patient is offered newly available combinations and doses of medicines that are still in the process of research and development. These types of treatments are usually only offered when either existing or previous treatments have shown little or no success.