At Beaumont, we develop an individualized treatment plan based on your unique situation. Specific treatment for lung cancer will be determined by your physicians based on:
- your opinion or preference
- your age, overall health and medical history
- extent or stage of the disease
- your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the disease
Lung cancer may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of treatments. “Combination treatment” or “multimodality treatment” refers to having more than one type of treatment utilized for your cancer. Treatment may be concurrent (at the same time) or sequential (one after the other).
Treatment for lung cancer typically includes one or more of the following:
Surgery results in the removal of the tumor and associated lung tissues. The extent of the tissue removed is often determined by the extent of the disease as well as your health. The choice depends on the size and location of the tumor in the lung, the extent of the cancer, the general health of the patient and other factors. That resection, my involved:
- segmental or wedge resection - removal of only a small part of the lung
- lobectomy - removal of an entire lobe of the lung
- pneumonectomy - removal of an entire lung
Were appropriate, minimally-invasive techniques to remove tumor, that may include VATS or robotic surgery.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. Radiation may also be used with chemotherapy to treat lung cancer. Radiation therapy is delivered by:
- external radiation (external beam therapy) - A treatment that precisely sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells. The machine is controlled by the radiation therapist. Since radiation is used to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors, special shields may be used to protect the tissue surrounding the treatment area. Radiation treatments are painless and usually last a few minutes. They begin with a treatment planning CT. These images account for the tumor location and any movement of the tumor from breathing. Your radiation oncology doctor will identify the tumor and relevant healthy tissues on the CTs and develop a treatment plan for your care.
Lung cancer radiation may be delivered with either high-energy X-rays, or with high-energy proton therapy.
- high-energy X-Rays - these are much more energetic than the X-rays used for imaging. An X-ray treatment plan delivers radiation from different directions but all focusing on your cancer. The beams are shaped, usually using IMRT, to avoid normal health tissues/organs as much as possible while delivering doses to kill your tumor
- high-energy protons – depending on the location of your tumor in your chest, sometimes X-ray doses to the healthy organs are too high. In these cases, proton therapy, a new technology at Beaumont that, in well selected cases, can significantly reduce dosage to healthy organs, especially the heart and lungs.
The use of anticancer drugs to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or multiply. Different groups of medications work in different ways to fight cancer cells. Your oncologist will recommend an individualized treatment plan for each patient. Therapies which target specific genetic mutations within the tumor cells as well as therapies to increase the effectiveness of the immune system (immunotherapy) are increasingly being used to treat lung cancer in addition to traditional chemotherapy. Chemotherapy and other targeted therapies may be given before other treatments, after other treatments or alone for lung cancer. Your oncologist will tailor your medication regimen to specifically address the type of lung cancer you are being treated for.
Targeted drug therapy is used when there are abnormal genes that allow cancer cells to grow. Targeted drugs block the abnormal genes that allows cancer to grow and, as a result, cause the cancer cells to die. Targeted therapies work in patients that show cells with abnormal gene mutations.
Immunotherapy allows the body's immune system to find and kill cancer cells. The immune system is destined to locate and kill any foreign cells that it does not recognize. Normally, cancer cells are recognized as foreign and targeted by our immune system. Cancer cells begin developing resistance to our immune system. As a result, it becomes harder for it to recognize cancer cells as an enemy.
Immunotherapy drugs work to kill cancer cells. Some immunotherapy allows our own immune system to grow stronger, and others use cell destruction that’s unique and different to the bodies normal actions. Immunotherapy is usually used for patients with advanced lung cancer.