Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer, and is the leading cause of cancer deaths in many parts of the world. Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke are associated with as many as nine out of every ten cases of lung cancer. In part because of the commonality of this type of cancer, numerous lung cancer treatments have been developed, any combination of which may be used depending on the individual patient's needs. As usual, early detection and treatment is the key to a good prognosis.
Lung cancer treatments come in a variety of forms, many of which resemble treatments for other forms of cancer. Surgical resection is the medical term for cutting away a tumor from the affected are of the lung. This has a good chance of success if the tumor has not spread to other areas of the body, but it is not a guarantee that cancer will not reappear later. There are several methods to choose from when performing lung cancer surgery, depending on its extent, but in all cases, it is considered major surgery involving general anesthesia, long recovery periods, and significant postoperative pain.
There is always a chance that a person's cancer will be inoperable for whatever reason. Lung cancer treatments have evolved to deal with this problem as well. One technique used for tumors that are unreachable by a traditional operation is photodynamic therapy. This is a less-invasive treatment that begins with the injection of a drug that is activated by light. This allows a doctor performing a bronchoscopy to view the tumor when it is exposed to a certain type of light. With the tumor illuminated in this way, it is then destroyed with pinpoint accuracy by a laser.
This form of treatment is especially good for those patients whose tumors are not visible on a chest x-ray. It also allows for the preservation of healthy tissue, more so than in a traditional operation. The flexible scope used in a bronchoscopy can also be used in other, related treatments, such as cryotherapy, where a tumor is destroyed by exposing it to extreme cold.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy drugs are also used as lung cancer treatments, as is the case with most cancers. Though it does not treat the actual cancer itself, pain medication is almost always a part of modern-day lung cancer treatments. Maintaining the patient's quality of life is the main goal in this case, especially if the cancer has reached an advanced stage where complete remission is unlikely.