Non Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

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What are the treatments for NSC lung cancer? Is it the less severe type of lung cancer? Is it because of smoking?

3 Answers

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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version

Key Points

  • Non-small cell lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.
  • There are several types of non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Smoking is the major risk factor for non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Signs of non-small cell lung cancer include a cough that doesn't go away and shortness of breath.
  • Tests that examine the lungs are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage non-small cell lung cancer.
  • If lung cancer is suspected, a biopsy is done.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
  • For most patients with non-small cell lung cancer, current treatments do not cure the cancer.

There are several types of non-small cell lung cancer.

Each type of non-small cell lung cancer has different kinds of cancer cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that forms in the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the lungs. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
  • Large cell carcinoma: Cancer that may begin in several types of large cells.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in the cells that line the alveoli and make substances such as mucus.

Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are: pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.

Signs of non-small cell lung cancer include a cough that doesn't go away and shortness of breath.

Sometimes lung cancer does not cause any signs or symptoms. It may be found during a chest x-ray done for another condition. Signs and symptoms may be caused by lung cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Hoarseness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck.

Stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The following stages are used for non-small cell lung cancer:       

Occult (hidden) stage       

Stage 0       

Stage I       

Stage II       

Stage III       

Stage IV 

Treatment

There are different types of treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Different types of treatments are available for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials.

Surgery

Four types of surgery are used to treat lung cancer:   

    Wedge resection: Surgery to remove a tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. When a slightly larger amount of tissue is taken, it is called a segmental resection.

    Lobectomy: Surgery to remove a whole lobe (section) of the lung.

    Pneumonectomy: Surgery to remove one whole lung.

    Sleeve resection: Surgery to remove part of the bronchus.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do.

Monoclonal antibodies

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances in the blood or tissues that may help cancer cells grow.

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are small-molecule drugs that go through the cell membrane and work inside cancer cells to block signals that cancer cells need to grow and divide. Some tyrosine kinase inhibitors also have angiogenesis inhibitor effects.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient's immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or biologic therapy.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy is a cancer treatment that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to kill cancer cells.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a cancer treatment that uses a drug and a certain type of laser light to kill cancer cells.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery is a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue, such as carcinoma in situ. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy. For tumors in the airways, cryosurgery is done through an endoscope.

Electrocautery

Electrocautery is a treatment that uses a probe or needle heated by an electric current to destroy abnormal tissue. For tumors in the airways, electrocautery is done through an endoscope.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change. This may be done in certain rare cases of non-small cell lung cancer.

Yes, smoking is the major risk factor for non-small cell lung cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk for lung cancer.

Risk factors for lung cancer include the following:

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, now or in the past. This is the most important risk factor for lung cancer. The earlier in life a person starts smoking, the more often a person smokes, and the more years a person smokes, the greater the risk of lung cancer.
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Being exposed to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, beryllium, nickel, soot, or tar in the workplace.
  • Being exposed to radiation from any of the following:
    • Radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
    • Radon in the home or workplace.
    • Imaging tests such as CT scans.
    • Atomic bomb radiation.
  • Living where there is air pollution.
  • Having a family history of lung cancer.
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Taking beta carotene supplements and being a heavy smoker.

Older age is the main risk factor for most cancers. The chance of getting cancer increases as you get older.

When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of lung cancer is increased.

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