Treatments for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Cancer has been and continues to be one of the most formidable, incurable health ailments that can be treated only if it is diagnosed in its early stages. Part of the trepidation that is associated with cancer is due to its ability to affect any part of the body, and the rest is induced due to the lack of explanations about its origins. For instance, it is often believed that lung cancer stems from the individual’s habit of smoking incessantly, which is quite true. However, people who haven’t smoked even once in their lives or gave up smoking are diagnosed with lung cancer.

There are two major types of lung cancer, and they are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. The non-small cell lung cancer constitutes about 85 percent of the total number of lung cancer cases diagnosed in the country. Non-small cell lung cancer is further divided into adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma, out of which adenocarcinoma is the most common form of lung cancer. Like every other form of cancer, non-small cell lung cancer is treatable when it is in its initial stages; once the cancer metastasizes, the treatments are more focused on curbing the symptoms of lung cancer rather than trying to cure it completely. The effective ways of treating non-small lung cancer are as follows:

1. Surgery
When non-small cell lung cancer is detected in its initial stages—stage I and II—the lung cancer is treated with surgery where the cancerous tumor is removed. This surgical procedure involves the removal of the lobe or section of the lung that contains the tumor. In certain cases, surgeons use video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). In this procedure, the surgeon makes a small incision or cut in the chest, and inserts a tube called thoracoscope. This thoracoscope is equipped with a light and tiny camera that is connected to a video monitor for the surgeon to see inside the chest. This procedure is a minimally-invasive whether the infected lobe can be removed without a large incision in the chest.

2. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
For those diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer where the tumors can be removed surgically, chemotherapy can prevent the relapse of lung cancer. The chemotherapy administered post-surgery, also known as “adjuvant chemotherapy” works for stage II or III lung cancer patients. However, for stage III non-small lung cancer patients, the chemotherapy is recommended to prevent the cancer from spreading to adjacent areas.

3. Radiation
Radiation therapy involves using high-powered beams like an X-ray to shrink the tumors. There are two types of radiation therapy: external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy). The former makes use of radiation from outside the body on the cancerous tumor and is used to thwart its onslaught on the nearby organs; whereas, the latter is used to shrink tumors in the airway to relieve the various symptoms of lung cancer and help the patient breathe.

4. Targeted therapy
Targetted therapy is one of the effective ways of killing cancer cells that grow abnormally. Unlike chemotherapy which cannot differentiate between the healthy cells and the cancerous ones, targeted therapy aims to attack cancer cells by attaching to or blocking targets which appear on the surface of the cells.

5. Immunotherapy
This form of lung cancer treatment involves using medications to prompt the immune system to fight the cancer cell. The medicines used for this form of treatment stimulates the patient’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively.