Lung Cancer Treatment
Lung cancer treatment usually involves surgery and/or chemotherapy with radiotherapy. The type of lung cancer you have and the extent to which it has spread will dictate which treatments you may be offered.
Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
In small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) surgery is very rarely an option because the cancer isn’t usually diagnosed until it is well advanced and has spread to other parts of the body. Although it is the slowest growing lung cancer it is also the most aggressive in the way that it invades other organs. Chemotherapy to blitz the cancer cells is the main treatment backed up by radiotherapy. The aim is to improve the quality of life of the patient and help relieve symptoms rather than to cure.
It is very unlikely that extremely advanced SCLC will respond to even the most aggressive chemotherapy. If it does, the effects are very limited and doctors usually recommend stopping the treatment and offering palliative care to help make life easier rather than prolong it.
Non Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
However with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) surgery is an option if it is detected at its very early stages. Parts of the affected lung can be removed giving a person a fighting chance of beating the disease.
Sometimes with NSCLC chemotherapy is given before surgery to help shrink the tumor in the lung making it easier to remove. Sometime a whole lung can be removed if the cancer is confined to that area and has not spread to the nearby lymph nodes.
If NSCLC has spread then surgery won’t provide a cure. As with SCLC the aim will be to relieve symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Regrettably chemotherapy doesn’t work as well on NSCLC because the cancer cells aren’t as sensitive to the drugs; however it does help relieve some of the symptoms.
Making decisions about treatment
Deciding whether to have treatment or not is a tough call, particularly with lung cancer. In very early NSCLC there is a possibility that surgery to remove the tumor could actually cure the cancer and naturally this will make the decision as to whether or not to have treatment a lot easier.
However, if the treatment is aimed at controlling the cancer rather than curing it, because it is at such an advanced stage, deciding to have it can become a lot more difficult.
The treatment may not have any effect whatsoever on the cancer and the patient would still have to suffer all the side effects.
This is a decision that can only be made once you have weighed up all the pros and cons and discussed it in detail with whoever is treating you and of course (if you want to) with those closest to you.
Even if you decide not to have treatment medication can be given to control pain and there should still be a back up system of healthcare professionals to offer support and advice if you need it.