Treating Inoperable Lung Cancer
When a patient has inoperable lung cancer, it means removing the cancer with surgery is not recommended. Doctors may proclaim the disease inoperable because it has spread to vital structures in the body, making it a dangerous procedure. The problem can be treated by other means and is not incurable.
A doctor’s decision not to operate is based on the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s health. The non-small cell type spreads slowly, and according to WebMD, surgical removal has a higher rate of success. Non-small cell spreads aggressively and as Lynn Eldridge, MD notes, about 30% of patients are in advanced stages of this disease when diagnosed.
About one out of every five patients is a candidate for surgical procedures for non-small cell lung cancer. The disease can also be inoperable because the patient has existing medical conditions or poor health. Anesthesia and general surgery risks present a greater danger to these patients. A person with COPD is particularly vulnerable.
When either type is diagnosed in advanced stages, surgery is not generally recommended. Stage 3B and 4 are advanced and require treatment through chemotherapy, radiotherapy or another non-surgical approach. Combination protocols involving chemo drugs and surgery, or partial surgical removal and radiotherapy are also options.
Data from the National Cancer Institute shows a lower rate of survival for inoperable cancers. This same data shows effective extension of life expectancy through alternative treatments. The prognosis is different for each patient, and is affected by many factors including age and pre-existing conditions. Most stage 1 and 2 cancers are considered operable.
Advanced stage cancers are treatable with chemotherapy and other non-invasive methods. These methods improve survival rates and extend life expectancy. New methods available include SBRT, short for ‘sterotactic body radiation therapy.’ The targeted radiation therapy has stalled the progress of the disease in a majority of study participants. This method has been shown to be twice as effective as traditional radiation therapy.
An inoperable diagnosis is not hopeless. Treatments are available to increase the chances of survival. Discuss the options with a specialist, get educated and seek support.