Receiving your prognosis can be confusing – that is completely normal. Ask a lot of questions; it’s important that you, the patient, thoroughly understand your options. Now that you have your diagnosis, you and your doctor can develop a treatment plan to get you on the road to recovery. Keep in mind that treatment options for lung cancer are varied and may be used alone or in combination with each other. Your oncologist, or cancer doctor, and surgeon will discuss these different options with you and explain the goal of each.
Surgery occurs when a surgeon removes the cancer growths also known as tumors. In the lungs, there are three lobes on the right and two lobes on the left (see image below). When eliminating lung cancer and lung cancer tissue, surgeons will often remove a section, a lobe or all of the lung. In general, surgeons try to remove as little lung as needed to eliminate the cancer.
|Anatomy of the Respiratory System|
All surgery presents risk. Any cancer surgery is major surgery, and complications may occur. Possible complications include the risks associated with the medications and methods used during surgery, the risks associated with any surgical procedure, and the risks associated with the patient’s medical condition and history.
Considering Your Surgical Treatment Options
Your doctor may recommend surgery as part of your treatment plan if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, particularly non-small cell lung cancer. Surgery to remove the cancer is typically an option when your cancer is only in one lung or present in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes. Surgery is the most effective treatment for early stage non-small cell lung cancers.
Two Major Surgical Approaches to Treat Lung Cancer
- Requires a large incision between the ribs and chest, and spreading of the ribs to allow optimal access to the lungs
- Described as the more traditional open surgery
- Considered the only surgical option to treat lung cancer until more advanced techniques were popularized in the 1990s
- Requires one or more small incisions
- Accomplished with advanced instruments that are inserted through the incisions and maneuvered to the problem site
- Generally performed through a procedure called VATS
Chemotherapy involves the use of drugs for treating cancer. These drugs can be ingested in pill form or injected by needle into a vein or muscle. This treatment is considered a systemic therapy, meaning that the drugs enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body to reach and destroy cancer cells in the lungs and beyond.
For more information on chemotherapy treatment and lung cancer, please visit the National Cancer Institute.
Radiation therapy is a treatment using high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. This treatment may be used to kill any cancer cells that remain in the lung area after surgery or chemotherapy.