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Lung Cancer Treatments
Lung Cancer Overview
Cancer of the lungs is most often either described as small cell or non-small cell, based on what the cells look like during the biopsy results. In order to determine if a patient has lung cancer, a pathologist will review the biopsy and a doctor will determine the best treatment for the situation. There are many different ways to check the lungs for cancer, such as bronchoscopy, where a flexible tube with a camera attached to the end is inserted into the mouth or nose so a doctor can view the lungs and take a tissue sample.
Chest x-rays and CT scans also help provide detailed looks into the lungs, and blood tests also help determine the amount of red and white blood cells or platelets are in the blood stream. When a patient is suffering from cancer, doctors will also check other areas of the body such as the bones, brain or lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread. For those who have lung cancer, a pulmonary function test is also administered to determine current lung capacity. This will help doctors understand if a patient has the lung strength to endure surgery or any radiation treatments in a safe manner.
Common Lung Cancer Treatments
There are various treatments for those suffering from lung cancer. As with any medical issue, the doctor will determine the best treatment based on the stage and type of cancer a patient has.
One common treatment for lung cancer is through surgery. Thoracic surgeons, also known as chest surgeons, and their specialized teams, perform surgeries. This type of treatment is especially beneficial for those who have non-small cell lung cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body. Examples of surgery include wedge resection, where the surgeon removes a small section of the lung, or a lobotomy, the most common type of surgery during which the surgeon removes a lobe from the cancerous lung, and finally, pneumonectomy, or the removal of an entire lung.
During surgery, the surgeon will also check surrounding lymph nodes in the thorasic or chest cavity, even if the biopsy came back negative in a previous test. This is to ensure that the cancer has not spread at the time of surgery. Patients who undergo surgery remain in the hospital for several days to a week while they heal and are asked to refrain from heavy activity for at least a month. Those individuals who suffer from chronic lung conditions like emphysema or bronchitis are kept under observation for longer periods of time.
Radiation therapy treatments are given to patients after a radiation oncologist determines an optimal course of treatment based on the stage of cancer a patient is in. For lung cancer patients, external beam radiation is given and can be performed prior to or after surgery, as well as during the entire chemotherapy treatment process. New radiation techniques now offer radiation oncologists the ability to focus maximum amounts of radiation on a tumor more precisely with the help of CT imaging, so that the tumor is directly affected with less damage to surrounding lung tissue.
Chemotherapy includes various drugs that are given by mouth or intravenously at various doses and frequencies, depending on doctor orders. A doctor specializing in medication treatments for cancer will determine the best medicine for fighting the tumor, as well as how long the treatment should last.
One other lung cancer treatment option is called photodynamic therapy. This therapy has been effective in treating cancer that affects the bronchial tubes, and in many cases has eliminated cancer when caught early. It is also helpful in reducing pain and symptoms caused by blockage of bronchial tubes.
Benefits of Lung Cancer Treatments
One of the major benefits to obtaining treatment for lung cancer is that it lowers the risks of growth of cancerous cells or tumors in the lung. This might prolong life, as well as reduce pain with breathing or other chronic lung diseases. While lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, not everyone who gets cancer smokes, with 10-15% being non-smokers. It is important to get a yearly checkup to make sure all internal organs are functioning and cancers are screened for.
Cost of Lung Cancer Treatments
Every cancer treatment has the potential to be very expensive, especially when they are extended for a long amount of time. Between surgery, testing, medications or cancer prevention and therapy, costs have the potential to add up. In the United States, the average hospital stay costs approximately $15,000 while countries such as India offer various therapies like radiation or surgery for approximately $800-$5,600. In Turkey, diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer averages about $8,500.
Choosing a Doctor
It's important to find a doctor who specializes in lung cancer. Such specialists are known as oncologists. Thoracic surgeons or radiation oncologists will administer or perform the proper procedures to patients. Ask for a second opinion before settling on a doctor or treatment, and make sure that the health facility offers the most technologically advanced equipment. Make sure doctor's, surgeons and oncologists are certified and experienced in their field, and that facilities are accredited, regardless of country of origin.