Find out what you need to know about the most common types of cancer treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and many others. Learn how they work and why they are used, and get an idea of what to expect and how they might affect you if you're getting them.
Treatment for lung cancer is based on several factors including a patient’s overall health and medical history, the extent of the disease, and other individual factors. Generally, treatment for patients with lung cancer includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, laser therapy, or a combination of treatments. Video-assisted thoracic surgery is also available at Family Memorial Hospital.
Depending on the type and stage of a lung cancer, surgery may be used to remove the cancer along with some surrounding lung tissue.
These operations require general anesthesia (you are “asleep”) and a surgical incision in the chest (called thoracotomy). You will generally spend one to two weeks in the hospital. Possible complications include excessive bleeding, wound infections, and pneumonia. Because the surgeon must cut through ribs to get to the lung, these will hurt for some time after surgery. Your activity will be limited for at least a month or two.
If your lungs are in good condition (other than the presence of the cancer) you can usually return to normal activities after a lobe or even an entire lung has been removed. However, if your lungs have been damaged and you have noncancerous diseases such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis (which are common among heavy smokers), you may become short of breath after surgery. Pulmonary function tests are done before surgery to determine whether you will have enough healthy lung tissue remaining after surgery.
If you can’t undergo a thoracotomy (opening the pleural cavity by incision) because of lung disease or other serious medical problems, or if the cancer is widespread, other types of surgery can be used to relieve some symptoms. For example, laser surgery can be used to relieve blockage of airways that may be causing pneumonia or shortness of breath.
If the lung cancer has spread to your brain, you may benefit from removal of the brain metastasis. This is done by surgery through a hole in the skull (craniotomy). It should only be done if the tumor can be removed without damage to vital areas of the brain that control movement, sensation, and speech.