Just as each person is unique, so is each case of lung cancer. A variety of treatment options may be available depending on the type of cancer, its staging and your overall health. At the UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health, our multidisciplinary team of expert surgical, medical and radiation oncologists evaluate each case to determine the best possible outcome for our patients. We tailor the treatment to each patient in order to achieve the best possible outcome. Possible treatments include:
Surgery is one of the most common treatments for lung cancer, and the most effective treatment for early stage lung cancer. As the disease stage advances it may be necessary to add additional treatments such as chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.
During surgery, your surgeon will remove the tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue. He or she also may remove some lymph nodes so they may be examined for cancer.
Lung cancer surgery is now performed using less invasive techniques such as video assisted surgery (VATS) robotic DaVinciÒ lobectomy where small video cameras and instruments are placed between the ribs to remove the lung cancer, with no need to open the chest and spread the ribs. In our center, more than 90% of lung cancer surgeries are performed using robotic surgery or less invasive techniques. The amount of lung removed depends on the tumor location, the patient’s breathing capacity and tumor stage. Options are:
- Wedge resection – the removal of the section of lung containing the tumor
- Segmental resection – the removal of a larger portion of lung
- Lobectomy – the removal of an entire lobe of one lung, this is the most common procedure performed and the most successful in controlling the disease
- Pneumonectomy- the removal of an entire lung, usually avoided and last resort option.
Chemotherapy uses powerful drugs to destroy cancer cells. Most patients are apprehensive to consider chemotherapy, but each patient experience is different and depends on the type of medication recommended. Most patents maintain good quality of life during treatment and side effect control has improved significantly. Chemotherapy may be given alone, or in combination with other treatments such as surgery or radiation therapy. Common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and an increased risk of infection. Another type of systemic cancer treatment consists of targeted therapy. After molecular analysis of the tumor, certain genetic mutations in the cancer cell can be detected. These mutations are “targets” or weak spots in the cancer cell that can be blocked with oral chemotherapy agents in eligible patients with less side effects.
Radiation therapy is a key part of treating lung cancer. This therapy involves using high- powered energy beams to target and kill residual cancer cells. It also may be used to alleviate symptoms resulting from advanced-stage cancer. The most common form of radiation therapy is known as external beam radiation. This involves using a machine that directs energy beams at the part of your body affected by cancer. Radiation therapy causes side effects such as fatigue and a temporary rash at the treatment site. Advances in radiation therapy using state of the art technology and more precise delivery of the radiation has decreased side effects and damage to non-cancerous tissue. Proton beam radiation is a newer modality that uses protons as the energy source, which can decrease damage to sensitive tissues resulting in more effective cancer treatment and less side effects. Radiation is often given in combination with chemotherapy which improves the cancer killing effect.