Chemotherapy is an anticancer drug used to kill cancer cells all the way through the body. Even after the cancer has been removed from the lung, the cancer cells might still be present in nearby tissue or somewhere else in the body.
Chemotherapy may be used to control cancer growth or to relieve symptoms. If it is used just to control symptoms, it is said to be a palliative treatment. Radiation or radiotherapy therapy uses high-energy rays to exterminate cancer cells. The radiation is directed to a limited area and only affects cancer cells within that area.
Radiation treatment can also be used before undergoing surgery to minimize the tumour, or after surgery to wipe out any cancer cells remaining in the treated area.
Doctors often use radiation treatment, combined with chemotherapy, as a primary or first treatment instead of surgery. Radiation treatment can also be used to relieve other symptoms such as shortness of breath or pain.
Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI)
Some patients may have radiation treatment to their brain even though cancer may not have yet been found. Called prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI), this treatment is given to prevent secondary tumours forming in the brain.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a type of laser therapy involving the use of a specific chemical injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells in the tissues and organs of the body.
The chemical quickly disperses from normal cells but stay behind in the cancer cells for longer. A laser is then aimed at the cancer which activates the chemical into killing the cancer cells.
Photodynamic therapy might be used to decrease symptoms of lung cancer when the cancer cannot be removed through surgery. This can include controlling bleeding or relieving breathing problems due to clogged-up airways.
Photodynamic therapy can also be used to treat smaller tumours in those patients whom usual treatments for lung cancer are not suitable.
Many patients suffering from lung cancer are happy to take part in clinical trials. These evaluate new ways to treat cancer and are sometimes an option for many lung cancer patients to receive treatment not yet in the open market.
Top Image: Nephron CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons. Micrograph of small cell carinoma of the lung.