Advanced stage and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) require aggressive treatment to eliminate. Oncologists prescribe courses of chemotherapy, radiation or both to kill malignant cells and reduce problems associated with the disease. With every new lung cancer treatment, researchers hope to have improved the long term survival rates of advanced carcinomas in the near future.
Controlled doses of radiation are used to alleviate symptoms caused by unchecked tumors. Malignant growths in the chest area are attacked with chemotherapy and/or surgery first. Areas the cancerous cells have spread to, especially the brain and bones, are traditionally targeted with low dose external radiation.
New therapy methods are used for pinpointing tumors to shrink them as well. The procedure called brachytherapy is ideal for treating tumors in the lungs. Caregivers can focus on a precise location and avoid damaging nearby essential organs and structures. This internal radiation therapy allows a maximum dosage to be delivered directly into a malignant growth.
Brachytherapy is performed through catheters inserted directly into infected tissue. The small catheters are placed with a bronchoscope and adjusted after each session. The dose from radioactive pellets is guided by computer and extracted at the specified time. The treatment is quick relative to external therapy and can be combined with other methods to improve the patient’s results.
Tomotherapy operates in conjunction with a 3D CT scan to obtain the exact size and location of distant tumors. Like brachytherapy, tomotherapy delivers targeted doses of radioactive energy with minimal or no damage to healthy tissue.
Patient response to aggressive cancer treatments can improve when the lungs are functioning well. Pulmonary interventional care is used to remove obstacles obstructing airways, drain fluid associated with pleural effusion, and generally provide comfort to the afflicted individual.
New trials using maintenance doses of chemo or radiotherapy have seen some success in improving survival rates in NSCLC. This is an approach meant to ensure cancerous cells cannot cause a recurrence. There is some concern as to whether the additional toxicity is worth the debatable results, but the approach has many proponents. Also, cancers must first respond to first-line methods before maintenance can begin.