Lung cancer is one of the most common and deadliest types of cancer. To treat this highly fatal ailment, there are two things to be considered; namely the stage and the type of the lung tumor.
Once these two have been determined, the oncology team and the patient must discuss the course of the treatment plan. During this discussion, other health conditions of the patient, aside from the cancer, should also be considered.
Knowing the type of tumor will also help the doctors in identifying if a patient possesses high or risk for cancer recurrence. If the tumor is only within the lung region, surgical procedure will be recommended. The procedure can either be Thoracotomy or Median Sternotomy surgery. Median Sternotomy is the process of removing the tumor through the breastbone while Thoracotomy is the resection of the tumor through the chest wall. Other surgical operations that can be used include AAT or Anterioraxillary Thoracotomy which is conducted in the frontal chest; and PLT or Posterolater Thoracotomy which is incising through the back of the trunk. Doctors may prefer AAT or PLT for patients with other sicknesses since these two procedures are less straining to the body as compared to Thoracotomy.
Development of new technologies like the Video-Assisted Thoracoscopy or VAT, has also aided doctors in lessening the stress in the patients body during the operation. VAT uses a video camera that shows the exact appearance of the lungs, making it easier for the doctors to identify the best spot for incision; thus, also minimizing the possible size of the cut. VAT, however, is only meant for early stages of lung cancer. More severe cases require larger incisions and at times the mutated cells can no longer be detected by preoperative X-rays which are usually the first basis for VAT.
For some patients who cannot undergo surgeries – perhaps due to weak body system or if the tumor cannot be seen on X-rays – PDT or Photodynamic Therapy is used. PDT is a procedure where light-activated drugs such as lumin and photofrin are injected into the body. Once within the system, light-activated drugs accumulate in damaged tissues such as tumors. After the drug has reached the target tumor, doctors use laser light to eliminate the tumor.
Radiation is also use to treat lung cancer. In Radiotherapy, the patient is given continuous doses of radiation – succeeding doses are given a few days after the preceding one – to remove the tumor. Common radioactive elements used in radiotherapy are Radon and Cobalt. Radiosurgery, on the other hand, uses only one strong dose of radiation to eliminate the cancer.
Science has definitely improved the treatment of lung cancer. However, according to studies, patients diagnosed with this cancer only survive for at most five years after successful surgical operations. Age is a big factor that affects the survival rates of the patients. Younger patients live longer. There are also some researches stating that genes can affect the speed of recovery and percentage of survival of a person. Nonetheless, this theory remains disputable.
Lung cancer can be treated, but will definitely take a big toll in a person’s life. In the end, prevention is still the best cure.