THERAPY for LUNG CANCER
About Lung Cancer
According to the
American Cancer Society, this year nearly 175,000 Americans will learn they have
The one-year survival rate for
lung cancer has increased from 34 percent in 1975 to 42 percent in 1998.
Risk Factors for Lung Cancer
Smoking greatly increases
your chances of developing lung cancer.
Other risk factors include exposure to substances like second-hand smoke, arsenic,
some organic chemicals, radon, asbestos, air pollution and tuberculosis.
If you quit smoking, the health benefits
For patients with lung
cancer, quitting smoking makes treatment more effective.
smoking also reduces the risks of infections, such as pneumonia, improves breathing,
and reduces the risks associated with surgery.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Some signs and symptoms of
lung cancer include:
Persistent cough, coughing
blood or shortness of breath.
Recurring pneumonia or bronchitis.
of the neck and face.
Unexplained weight loss,
loss of appetite or fatigue.
A chest X-ray will
often reveal a tumor and where it is located. Other tests, such as CT scans and
PET scans, can provide more detailed information.
be certain if you have lung cancer, tissue from your lung will be removed and
analyzed. This is called a biopsy.
may be done during a bronchoscopy, a test where a flexible tube with a light is
inserted into your nose or mouth to look at the airways of the lungs.
A biopsy may also be done with a needle inserted through the
skin directly into the tumor under CT guidance.
Types of Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer and
small cell lung cancer are the two main types of lung cancer.
Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung
cancer. It often grows and spreads less rapidly than small cell lung cancer. There
are three types of non-small cell lung cancer squamous cell carcinoma,
adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. It grows more
rapidly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.
Lung cancer usually begins in one lung. If left untreated, it
can spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the chest, including the other lung.
Lung cancer can also metastasize (or spread) throughout the body to the bones,
brain, liver or other organs.
for Lung Cancer
Lung cancer treatment depends on several factors,
including the type and size of the cancer, its location, and your overall health.
Typically, several different treatments and combinations of treatments will be
used to combat lung cancer. During treatment, a team of doctors may be involved
in your care, including a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist and a surgeon.
Non-small cell lung cancer may be treated
first with surgery. Your doctor may also suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy
either alone or in combination.
Small cell lung
cancer is often treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy either at the
same time or one right after the other.
Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy,
is the careful use of radiation to safely and effectively treat cancer.
Cancer doctors called radiation oncologists use radiation
therapy to try to cure cancer, to control cancer growth or to relieve symptoms,
such as pain.
Radiation therapy works within
cancer cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the
body naturally eliminates them.
are also affected by radiation, but they are able to repair themselves in a way
cancer cells cannot.
External beam radiation therapy involves a series
of daily radiation treatments targeting your lung tumor.
Radiation therapy treatments are delivered in a series of daily sessions. Each
treatment itself is painless and will last less than 30 minutes, Monday through
Friday, for several weeks.
radiotherapy (3D-CRT) combines multiple radiation treatment fields to deliver
precise doses of radiation to the lung tumor. Tailoring each of the radiation
beams to accurately focus on the tumor targets the cancer while protecting nearby
Intensity modulated radiation
therapy (IMRT) is a form of 3D-CRT that modifies the radiation by varying the
intensity of each radiation beam. This technique allows a precise adjustment of
radiation doses to the tissues within the target area, possibly allowing a higher
radiation dose to the tumor and keeping more radiation away from nearby normal
tissues. IMRT is still being studied for lung cancer.
radiation oncologist may recommend applying radiation to the brain after successfully
treating small cell lung cancer. Called prophylactic cranial irradiation, or PCI,
this treatment is not recommended for all patients.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend
brachytherapy. Also called internal radiation, brachytherapy involves placing
radioactive material into a tumor or its surrounding tissue.
During bronchoscopy, one or two thin plastic tubes called catheters
will be placed down your nose and into the airways of the lung.
The tube or tubes are then connected to a brachytherapy machine.
This holds the radioactive source, which is in the form of a ribbon with radioactive
seeds. Your doctor slides the ribbon into the tube in your lung so the seeds are
next to the tumor.
The ribbon will be left in
place from a few minutes to a few days.
Patients often experience little or no side effects
from radiation therapy and are able to continue normal routines.
Side effects are temporary and usually limited to the area
that received radiation.
Possible problems include
skin irritation, difficulty or pain when swallowing, shortness of breath, and
Talk to your doctor about any discomfort
you feel. He or she may be able to provide drugs and other treatments to help.
About the Radiation Oncology Team
are the doctors who oversee the care of each patient undergoing radiation treatment.
Other members of the radiation oncology team include radiation therapists, radiation
oncology nurses, medical physicists, dosimetrists, social workers and nutritionists.
To find a radiation oncologist in your area, visit
About Clinical Trials
The radiation oncology team is always looking
for new ways to treat and cure cancer through studies called clinical trials.
Today's lung cancer radiation therapy treatments are the result of clinical trials
completed in the past proving that radiation therapy kills cancer cells and is
safe long term. For more information on clinical trials, please visit the following
National Cancer Institute
Therapy Oncology Group
Web Sites On Lung Cancer ::
Alliance for Lung Cancer, Advocacy
Support and Education
on Lung Cancer
Living With Cancer
Mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lung
The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology
is the largest radiation oncology society in the world. ASTRO's mission is to
advance radiation oncology by promoting excellence in patient care, supporting
research and distributing research results.