The type of treatment that you receive depends on several factors, including the type of lung cancer that you have. Treatment may be used to reduce the size of a tumor, prevent the cancer from spreading, or cure the cancer. If the cancer cannot be cured, treatments may be used to reduce the symptoms and prolong life.
Small cell lung cancer responds well to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Non-small cell lung cancer may be treated with surgery to remove the cancer, part of the lung, or all of a lung. Surgery may be followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy involves using a series of cancer-fighting drugs over a period of time. There are several types of radiation therapies for lung cancer.
Radiation therapy is a painless procedure. Your doctor will prescribe the amount and length of treatment based on your condition. Radiation therapy is usually delivered in several doses over a period of time. There are different types of radiation therapy that may be used to help treat lung cancer.
External beam radiation uses high-energy beams to disrupt the growth of cancer cells. Radiation damages all cells both healthy and cancerous in the exposed area. Radiated cancer cells are not able to repair themselves or replicate. Your doctor may prescribe medication to prevent the side effects of radiation.
State-of-the-art technology has advanced radiation methods to help make them more effective and tolerable. Three dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D CRT) maps a tumor with imaging scans before treatment. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are used to produce images of a tumor and its surrounding tissue. The images from the scans are combined with a computer called a multi-leaf collimator (MLC). The MLC produces a 3D image of the cancer and formulates a treatment plan specifically for the 3D image. Four dimensional conformal radiation therapy (4D CRT) is able to adjust the radiation for the movements of breathing. It is useful for treating lung cancers. This allows direct multiple beams of radiation to be targeted precisely at the tumor and spare as much healthy tissue as possible.
Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a refined type of 3D CRT. IMRT allows the radiologist to sculpt the edges of a tumor, sparing healthy tissue. With IMRT, the radiation dose can be changed during a treatment session. In the past, radiation was delivered in one dose, from the beginning to the end of a treatment session. IMRT allows the radiation dose to alter and conform more specifically to the shape of the tumor while minimizing the dose received by healthy tissues.
Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) is a type of external beam radiation therapy for cancer that adjusts for the size and shape of a cancer tumor throughout treatment. Cancer tumors may move, change size, and change shape throughout the course of treatment. IGRT uses advanced imaging technology to visualize the tumor before each treatment. Based on the daily images, the radiation is configured before each treatment. In turn, the radiation is more precise, effective, and results in fewer side effects.
Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) and Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT) are both methods of delivering radiation therapy to lung cancer tumors. SRS or SRT may be used instead of or along with surgery. SRS involves a single radiation treatment. SRT uses a series of treatments over time. Both methods spare healthy tissues because the radiation precisely targets the cancer.
With SRS and SRT, sophisticated software controls the radiation treatment beams to match the exact shape of a tumor or lesion. The beams may be moved to penetrate the cancer from different angles. The state-of-the-art equipment is able to adjust for minor patient movements. This precision delivery method quickly allows the cancer to receive the full dose of radiation, while the surrounding healthy tissue only receives a small percentage of radiation.
The experience of cancer and cancer treatments can be a very emotional experience for you and your loved ones. It is important to embrace positive sources of support. Some people find comfort in their families, friends, co-workers, counselors, and faith. Cancer support groups are a helpful resource where you can receive support, information, and understanding from people with similar experiences. Ask your doctor for support groups near you.