What are the Treatments for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?

K. Gierok

Non-small cell lung cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the lungs. The most common types of treatments for non-small cell lung cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, though a number of other treatments exist. The aggressiveness of the cancer and the individual prognosis is often used to determine which treatment therapy will be best.

Cigarettes, which are closely associated with lung cancer.
Cigarettes, which are closely associated with lung cancer.

Typically, one of the most common treatments for non-small cell lung cancer is surgery. The difficulty of the surgery and patient survival rates typically depend on the severity of the cancer itself. Patients who have cancer that is relatively minor or contained to one specific area of a particular lung will typically undergo resection. A resection happens when the doctor who is performing the surgery removes only the cancerous part of the lung, along with a small bit of the healthy, surrounding tissue. In contrast, non-small cell lung cancers that are more serious and have progressed further typically will require the entire removal of a lung.

A human respiratory system.
A human respiratory system.

Radiation therapy is another of the most common treatments for non-small cell lung cancer. Radiation therapy is used to target the cancerous cells that have taken over the lung. As with surgery, the type of radiation therapy used depends of the individual patient and their prognosis. The most common type of radiation therapy is external radiation, where beams of radiation are directed at the patient who is suffering from the non-small cell lung cancer. In contrast, internal radiation is a type of radiation in which a small radioactive device is implanted in the patient. This device is placed near the cancerous growth, and is used to kill and stop the growth of new cancer cells.

Surgery is typically an option for a patient with non-small cell lung cancer.
Surgery is typically an option for a patient with non-small cell lung cancer.

Another common treatment for non-small cell lung cancer is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is very similar to radiation in that it works to kill and stop new cancer from developing. However, unlike radiation, chemotherapy requires either the injection or consumption of various chemicals to treat the patient. In chemotherapy, the chemicals enter the bloodstream, and are very effective at stopping the growth of new cancer cells.

Chemotherapy attacks cancer cells, making it one of the main treatments in non-small cell lung cancer.
Chemotherapy attacks cancer cells, making it one of the main treatments in non-small cell lung cancer.

Other treatments for non-small cell lung cancer include laser therapy, biologic therapy, and photodynamic therapy. All of these methods have been found to be successful in the treatment of specific types of cancer. As with the other forms of treatment mentioned above, the severity of cancer and individual prognosis play a large part in determining which form of treatment will be most successful.

Chemotherapy may cause depression in some cancer patients.
Chemotherapy may cause depression in some cancer patients.

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