Lung Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that start off in one or both lungs; usually in the cells that line the air passages. The abnormal cells do not develop into healthy lung tissue, they divide rapidly and form tumors.
As tumors become larger and more numerous, they undermine the lung’s ability to provide the bloodstream with oxygen. Tumors that remain in one place and do not appear to spread are known as “Venign Tumors.”
Malignant Tumors, the more dangerous ones, spread to other parts of the body either through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. Metastasis refers to cancer spreading beyond its site of origin to other parts of the body. When cancer spreads, it is much harder to treat successfully.
Primary Lung Cancer originates in the lungs, while secondary Lung Cancer starts somewhere else in the body, metastasizes, and reaches the lungs. They are considered different types of cancers and are not treated in the same way.
Types of Lung Cancer:
- Non-Small Cell: Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) comes from epithelial cells and is the most common type.
- Small-Cell: Small cell lung cancer begins in the nerve cells or hormone-producing cells of the lung. The term “small cell” refers to the size and shape of the cancer cells as seen under a microscope. It is important for doctors to distinguish NSCLC from small cell lung cancer because the two types of cancer are usually treated in different ways.
- A new cough that doesn’t go away
- Changes in a chronic cough or “smoker’s cough.”
- Coughing up blood, even a small amount
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Losing weight without trying
- Bone pain
- Swelling of the neck and face
- Loss of appetite
The lungs have five lobes, three in the right lung and two in the left lung. For NSCLC, a lobectomy (removal of an entire lobe of the lung) has been shown to be the most effective type of surgery, even when the lung tumor is very small.
- A Wedge
If the surgeon cannot remove an entire lobe of the lung, the surgeon can remove the tumor, surrounded by a margin of normal lung.
If the tumor is close to the center of the chest, the surgeon may have to remove the entire lung.
- Radiofrequency Ablation
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is the use of a needle inserted into the tumor to destroy cancer with an electrical current. It is sometimes used for a lung tumor that cannot be removed with the other types of surgery listed above. The time it takes to recover from lung surgery depends on how much of the lung is removed and the health of the patient before surgery. Talk with your health care team about what to expect before your surgery, including recovery time and possible side effects. Learn more about cancer surgery.
- Adjuvant Therapy
Adjuvant therapy is a treatment that is given after surgery to lower the risk of the lung cancer returning. Adjuvant therapy includes radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and possibly targeted therapy. Each therapy is described below. It is intended to get rid of any lung cancer cells that may still be in the body after surgery. It may decrease the risk of recurrence, though there is always some risk that cancer will come back.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to kill cancer cells. If you need radiation therapy, you will be asked to see a specialist called a radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer. The most common type of radiation treatment is called external-beam radiation therapy, which is radiation given from a machine outside the body. When radiation treatment is given using implants, it is called internal radiation therapy or Brachy Therapy. A radiation therapy regimen (schedule) usually consists of a specific number of treatments given over a set period.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, usually by stopping the cancer cells’ ability to grow and divide. Systemic chemotherapy is delivered through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy is given by a medical oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with medication. Most chemotherapy used for lung cancer is injected into a vein (called intravenous, or IV injection). A chemotherapy regimen usually consists of a specific number of cycles given over a set period. A patient may receive one drug at a time or combinations of different drugs at the same time.
- Targeted Therapy
Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to normal cells. Recent studies show that not all tumors have the same targets. To find the most effective treatment, your doctor may run tests to identify the genes, proteins, and other factors in your tumor. For some lung cancers, abnormal proteins are found in unusually large amounts in the cancer cells. Running tests to find these proteins can help doctors better match each patient with the most effective treatment whenever possible. Also, many research studies are taking place now to find out more about specific molecular targets and new treatments directed at them. Learn more about targeted treatments.