Treatment of Lung Cancer

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Lungs are important organs which help us in breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon-di-oxide. Bronchi are tubes which connect the windpipe and the lungs. Cancer of the lung usually begins from these tubes. Lung cancer can be defined as an unchecked growth of abnormal cells in any one lobe of the lung or in both the lobes. These cells do not become healthy lung tissues but develop into tumors which impede the normal functioning of the lungs.

Cause and Symptoms of Lung Cancer:

Many reasons have been cited for lung cancer such as smoking, exposure to second hand smoke, family history of lung cancer, air polluted with carcinogenic substances such as uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel and asbestos.

Though early lung cancer does not demonstrate any symptoms as the cancer progresses it gives rise to various symptoms depending on the severity of the disease such as chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, bone pain, facial paralysis, wheezing, weakness and many more.

Types of Lung Cancer:

There are two types of lung cancer – Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and Small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Sometimes the lung cancer demonstrates the characteristics of both the types of cancer and is known as mixed small cell/large cell cancer.

NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer and about 85% of people diagnosed with lung cancer suffer from this type. Small cell lung cancer is known as oat cell cancer and progresses very quickly.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer:

Lung cancer is often diagnosed by MRI and CT scan of the chest. Needle biopsy and bronchoscopy are some others methods to diagnose the disease. Further imaging tests to determine the stage of cancer is also done.

Treatment of Lung Cancer:

Treatment of lung cancer varies according to the stage of cancer and the type of cancer that the patient has. Usually the treatment is a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The most common treatments are:

Surgery: Patients with limited stage small cell cancer and without lymph node tumor benefit from surgery. However the surgery needs to be followed by chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is generally cancer killing drugs which are injected into the muscles, artery or under the skin. These drugs have been found to cure cancer and prevent spreading of cancer. Chemotherapy is often administered in cycles with some rest periods given between the cycles. However, chemotherapy does have severe side effects. The patient becomes tired and has stomach upsets frequently. There is severe loss of hair and experience feelings of pain or numbness due to damage caused to the nerves.

Radiation Therapy: Radiation is often harmful for cells. Radiation therapy is used to shrink a tumor before surgery or as a follow up after chemotherapy to prevent the cancer cells from growing back again.  

Radiation is administered as powerful x-rays or particles on the site of the tumor outside the body or as internal therapy by drinking, swallowing pills or intravenously. During the radiation process even normal healthy cells are damaged or killed by radiation leading to side effects.

Laser therapy and endoscopic stent placement are some other treatment options for Small Cell Lung Cancer while Laser therapy, Photodynamic therapy (PDT), Cryosurgery and Electrocautery are other treatment options for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.


Though new treatment options are being discovered for treating cancer prevention has always been ranked higher than cure. However, early detection of the disease would lower treatment costs and the side effects of the treatment in addition guaranteeing a complete cure from the disease.

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