There are basically three ways to treat lung cancer. The patient can opt for surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. What type of surgery the patient will receive depends on where the lung tumor is located and how big it is. Radiation kills the cancer cells with high energy rays. Chemotherapy is a treatment where anticancer drugs are taken to treat the disease. Some patients have a combination of all three of these treatments. The treatment also depends on what sort of lung cancer the patient has.
Small cell lung cancer, which is also called oat cell cancer because of its appearance under a microscope, is a quickly growing cancer that metastasizes early. Often, the usual tests cannot find the secondary tumors, so this type of cancer is most likely to be treated with chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy with radiation. The radiation targets the primary tumor and it’s hoped that the chemotherapy will destroy the distant tumors in the body.
Non-small-cell lung cancers are basically divided into epidermoid carcinoma, which begins in the lining of the lung or the bronchial tubes. Adenocarcinoma grows along the outer edge of the lungs and under the tissue that lines the bronchial tubes. Large cell carcinomas are often found in the smaller bronchial tubes.
Surgeons further divide patients with non-small-cell lung cancers into groups. In the first group, the cancer is still in the lung and can be taken out with surgery, often with a wedge resection. This operation only takes out a small part of the lung. When a lobe of the lung is removed, it’s called a lobectomy. Pneumonectomy is where the entire lung is removed. Patients whose tumor is still only in the lung but who can’t have surgery are treated with radiation.
In the second group, the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. These people are treated with radiation and sometimes with surgery.
The third group has a cancer that’s spread to distant sites in the body. These patients are treated with both chemotherapy and radiation. It’s hoped that these modalities shrink the cancers and relieve the patient’s symptoms.