If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, it’s important you understand your diagnosis, and all the treatment options available to you. We’re here to help.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer can develop within right or left lungs and sometimes within the bronchi. The right lung has three lobes and the left lung has two lobes. The bronchi are two tubes that lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the lungs. The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell (adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma) and small cell lung cancer (small cell carcinoma or oat cell cancer). Lung cancer can also be a mix of small cell and non-small cell carcinoma. Other types of lung cancer include lung carcinoid tumors and malignant pleural mesothelioma, although these types of lung cancer are rare.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 80% to 85% of all lung cancer diagnoses, according to American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society recommends annual lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT scan for certain people at higher risk for lung cancer who meet the following conditions:
- Are 55 to 77 years old and in fairly good health
- Currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years
- Receive smoking cessation counseling if they are current smokers
- Have at least a 30-pack per year smoking history
If you meet the screening criteria listed above, you should ask your physician about a low-dose CT screening. At Methodist Healthcare, we partner with South Texas Radiology Imaging Center (STRIC) for lung cancer screenings, equipped with the latest computed tomography (CT) technology available.
What are my treatment options?
There are several types of treatments that are used for lung cancer. Treatment is determined by the history (type) of cancer and the stage. The following are the common treatment options for lung cancer.
- Wedge or segmental resection involves removing the tumor and a portion of surrounding tissue.
- Lobectomy removes an entire lobe.
- Pneumonectomy removes one lung.
- Sleeve resection removes part of the bronchus.
- Radiation therapy can be used for patients with early stage disease who cannot have surgery and is part of the standard of care treatment for stage III patients. Stage IV patients can benefit from palliative radiation to improve pain and other symptoms.
- External radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays directed at the cancer from outside the body. It is the most common type of radiation used in the treatment of lung cancer.
- Internal radiation therapy involves implanting a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds or wires directly into or near the cancer.
- Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic medications to kill cancer cells.
- Systemic chemotherapy is administered orally or via an injection into the vein or muscle.
- Regional chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ or a body cavity where the cancer is located.
- A laser beam that kills cancer cells.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 80% to 85% of all lung cancer, according to American Cancer Society. Here are treatment options specifically for non-small cell lung cancer:
- Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell that identifies what may help cancer cells grow and blocks them.
- Small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors are drugs that work inside cancer cells and block signals needed for tumors to grow.
- Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy that uses targeted drugs to convince the body’s immune system to recognize that there is something foreign in the body (cancer) and to attack the cells threatening it.
- Immunotherapy is not used in patients with early stage disease.
- Immunotherapy is given by infusion.
- Some examples of immunotherapy are:
- Atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
- Nivolumab (Opdivo)
- Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
- A drug-and-laser light combination that kills cancer cells.
- A treatment that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ.
- A probe or needle that is heated by an electric current and then used to destroy abnormal tissue.
- Closely monitoring a patient's condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change (used in certain cases of non-small cell lung cancer).
To learn more about our lung cancer services, please call the Methodist Heart and Lung Institute Lung Center at (210) 575-LUNG (5864), or schedule your lung cancer screening now.