Lung cancer (LC) can be treated successfully if it is diagnosed before the cancerous cells spread to other areas of the body. For the non-small cell version of the disease, doctors will usually suggest surgery as the primary form of treatment. However, curing the disorder with surgery is only possible if the diseased cells remain localized. Once they metastasize, other approaches become necessary.

Below, we’ll briefly describe the most common forms of treatment for killing cancerous cells. You’ll learn how doctors rely upon toxic medications, radiation, light, and surgery to control and cure the disease.

Cytotoxic Medications

Cytotoxic medications are used during chemotherapy. These are drugs that either kill abnormal cells that are dividing or prevent them from spreading further. This is the reason patients will often lose their hair or become nauseous following the sessions. The cells that are associated with hair growth and the stomach divide normally. The chemicals stop them from dividing.

Chemotherapy is a systemic approach. It is used after lung cancer has metastasized, which makes it a common adjunct form of treatment when localized measures are insufficient. In cases where LC has advanced to later stages and is incurable, the medications are often administered to prolong the patient’s life.

High-Energy Radiation

This form of treatment uses radiation to eliminate cancerous cells. The radiation disrupts the cells’ DNA structure, thereby preventing them from dividing. While normal cells can be damaged, most of the impact is delivered to diseased cells.

Radiation therapy is a localized approach. It is often administered in conjunction with surgery (described below). Doctors might use the high-energy rays to eliminate any remaining diseased cells following surgery. It can also be used to shrink the tumor prior to surgery.

This treatment is typically administered five days a week for six to seven weeks. There are two ways to deliver the radiation. It can be delivered externally with a machine that focuses the radiation on a predefined area. It can also be delivered internally through a procedure called brachytherapy.

Photodynamic Therapy

When lung cancer exists near the air passageways, doctors will occasionally administer photodynamic therapy. A medication called Photofrin is injected into the body; it accumulates in diseased cells. A bronchoscope with a small light attached on its end is inserted and guided to the site of the tumor. Photofrin is activated by exposure to light. Once activated, it begins to kill the affected cells. After two or three days have passed, a bronchoscope is directed to the site to extract the dead cells.

Surgical Removal Of The Affected Tissue

Surgery for lung cancer comes in three forms: wedge resection, lobectomy, and pneumonectomy. The approach taken by the surgeon is dictated by the location and size of the offending tumor.

A wedge resection is a procedure during which a single piece of the affected lung is extracted. The removed portion includes the tumor as well as a slim border of unaffected tissue.

A lobectomy is the type of lung cancer surgery most often performed. It is defined as the extraction of a single lobe of the affected lung.

In cases where the cancerous cells have spread throughout the lung tissue, a pneumonectomy is performed. This procedure is defined as the removal of the entire lung.

Which Form Of Treatment Is Appropriate?

As noted earlier, surgery as a sole method of curing LC is only effective if the disease is diagnosed in its early stages. Radiation therapy and surgery, both localized approaches, are often done together. Once the diseased cells have begun to spread, chemotherapy must be used to kill them.

Your physician will ultimately decide which form of treatment is appropriate given the disease’s staging and the influence of other medical conditions. If you are suffering from late stage lung cancer, chemotherapy or laser therapy may be administered to help reduce your symptoms.