lung cancer treatments and their descriptions
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Lung cancer treatments - what are your options?

There are three types of commonly used lung cancer treatments - surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These treatments may be used individually or in combination to achieve the best chance of curing this dreaded disease.

How does the doctor decide on the specific lung cancer treatments to be used in a particular case? That depends on several factors.

For instance, the exact location of the cancer within the lung has a bearing on the kind of treatment adopted. So does the type of cancer and the stage of the cancer. The stage of the cancer refers to the spread of the disease - higher stages imply that the cancer has spread out beyond its original location. The general health of the patient is an important consideration as well.

Of the two major types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer is considerably more dangerous because of its tendency to spread rapidly to other parts of the body. This type of cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy. Surgery is generally not used because the cancer may already have spread to other areas. Therefore surgical removal of a tumor would not really help.

Radiotherapy is also used as one of the lung cancer treatments for small cell lung cancer. Once chemotherapy has been administered (or while it is being used), the doctor may use radiation treatment in the chest area. This is done to prevent the cancer from showing up again.

Since small cell lung cancer often spreads to the brain, the doctor may also use a procedure called prophylactic cranial irradiation (abbreviated PCI) to deal with the presence of cancer in the brain. This is a form of radiotherapy that is applied to the brain.

The above applies for those who have early stage or limited small cell lung cancer. Patients with extensive disease are also usually given chemotherapy and radiation treatment to relieve symptoms.

Treatment for those with non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) depends on the stage of the disease.

Stage zero is a very early stage of the disease - it is quite rare for the disease to be detected this early. At this stage, the cancer can be cured by surgery, usually through a procedure called wedge resection of segmentectomy. This removes only a small part of the lung and does not impair lung function to any great extent.

Stage 1 disease can also be cured through surgery. A greater portion of the lung must be removed using a procedure called lobectomy. In this case, one of the lobes of the lung is removed to get rid of the malignancy. Other lung cancer treatments like radio frequency ablation and radical radiotherapy may be used in cases where surgery is not possible.

Stage 2 of the disease often requires a lobectomy combined with chemotherapy. The latter is recommended in cases where the cancer could not be completely eliminated by a lobectomy. It may also be done to prevent the cancer from recurring.

Stage 3 lung cancer may also be treated with surgery, provided the cancer is in a location that can be surgically removed. If the cancer is too close to the heart, for example, surgery may not be possible. Radiotherapy may be used as an alternative. Chemotherapy is also used when cancer has spread to lymph nodes.

There is no real cure for stage 4 non small cell lung cancer. The disease has spread to other parts of the body. However, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used at this stage to increase life expectancy and to relieve symptoms.

These lung cancer treatments when applied early enough can enable a patient to lead a normal or near-normal life.

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