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How is Non- Small cell lung cancer treated?

  • December 8, 2020
  • 4 mins read

There are a variety of options for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer. Based on the state in which you’ve been diagnosed and your health conditions, your doctor will choose a particular form of therapy or a combination of two or more, if necessary. 

1. SURGERY FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER 

Surgery is the preferable form of treatment for this disease, provided it has been diagnosed in its initial stage. However, owing to the complexity of the procedure and its after-effects, one must decide on it after thorough analysis. Several medical examinations will be conducted before to check whether your body is capable of handling it. 

There are different types of surgery for non-small cell lung cancer –

  • Pneumonectomy– An entire lung is removed to cure cancer.
  • Lobectomy– Only the lobe of the lung containing the tumor is removed.
  • Wedge Resection– If the patient won’t be able to withstand the removal of an entire lobe or lung, a part of the lobe is attempted to remove the tumor. 
  • Sleeve Resection– This procedure is suited for treating cancer in large airways in the lungs.

You can also opt for Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or robotically assisted thoracic surgery (RATS). The former is known for its use of small incisions and a rather simpler procedure to cure early-stage NSCLC; the latter utilizes a robotic system to conduct the surgery. It certainly guarantees more precision. 

Risk Factors:

  • Excess Bleeding 
  • Blood Clotting
  • Pneumonia 
  • Wound Infections
  • Limited movements till recovery 

2. RADIOFREQUENCY ABLATION (RFA) FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER

If your body can’t tolerate the after-effects or risk factors involved with surgery, Radiofrequency Ablation is one of treatment that can also be considered, especially if the tumors are present near the outer edge of the lungs. This procedure is complicated and uses high-energy radio waves to destroy the tumors. A needle-like probe is inserted through the skin that is monitored with CT scan. Electricity is passed through it so that the heat kills the cancer cells. Local anesthesia is mandatory in this case. 

Risk Factors

  • A partial collapse of a lung
  • Bleeding within the lung 

3. RADIATION THERAPY FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER

Depending on the stage of cancer, it is one of the most favored forms of therapy for curing NSCLC. In some cases, it is also used along with chemotherapy. If you have opted for surgery and need to shrink the size of the tumor, radiation therapy can be helpful. 

Two main types of radiation therapy are:

  • External Beam Radiation Therapy- High-dose energy beams are given from outside the body to kill the cancer cells. Doctors usually prefer a cycle of 5-7 days a week, followed by a rest period. Here, stereotactic body radiation therapy can be discussed which is quite useful in conditions where cancer has spread to other parts. The three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy traces the exact location of the tumor with computers. After that, radiation beams are shaped and aimed towards the location from different angles. 
  • Brachytherapy– Also known as the internal radiation therapy, here, the doctor uses a small radioactive material into the airway of cancer to destroy the tumor. 

Side Effects

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue 
  • Hair loss

4. CHEMOTHERAPY FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER

Chemotherapy can be opted for before surgery to shrink a tumor and after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells. Here, a combination of drugs is infused intravenously in the bloodstream so that they travel through it to destroy the tumor. These medications work alone or in combinations to block a certain protein that induces cancer cells’ growth. Usually, after first-line chemotherapy, Nintedanib can be used to treat recurrent and advanced cases. Note that it is approved for monotherapy purposes, and the dose may vary in different patients. The second-line chemotherapy is based on drugs like Everolimus to enhance the antitumor activity. It is also excellent in treating chemotherapy-refractory advanced NSCLC. Certain first-line chemotherapy drugs like Paclitaxel are used to treat locally-advanced or metastatic conditions in combination with carboplatin. 

Chemo is given in cycles, which are 3 to 4 weeks long. It can be longer also, depending on how efficient the treatment is. After a certain amount of rest period to allow the body to recover from the side-effects, therapy is resumed. Drugs are often combined, eliminated, or added depending on the response from the body. 

Side Effects:

  1. Nausea 
  2. Hari loss
  3. Loss of appetite 
  4. Mouth sores
  5. Fatigue 

5. TARGETED DRUG THERAPY FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER

Certainly, different from the standard chemo drugs, this form of treatment consists of consuming the drugs orally so that they target the blood vessels of the cancer cells that help them survive. There are some drugs like Erlotinib and Gefitinib that can be used separately or in combination. You can use other drugs like Osimertinib and Afatinib without chemotherapy. For dealing with advanced NSCLC and metastatic cases, these drugs have shown desired results. If you are going with targeted therapy for dealing with squamous cell NSCLC, medications forming monoclonal antibody (immune system protein) are infused intravenously to block the growth of cancer cells. 

Side Effects

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Fatigue
  3. Unusual tiredness 
  4. Nausea 

6. IMMUNOTHERAPY FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER 

This form of therapy boosts the immune system of the patient with medication to fight cancer. Since the immune system does not attack the normal cells with checkpoint proteins, cancer cells use this technique to survive within the body. Drugs like Nivolumab, Durvalumab, and Pembrolizumab are used to attack these checkpoint inhibitors and eliminate malignant cancer cells. In some cases, they are also used to shrink their size or restrict their growth to deal with the rest by chemotherapy or radiation.

Side Effects– 

  1. Fever and chills
  2. Loss of appetite 
  3. Constipation
  4. Skin rash 

7. PALLIATIVE PROCEDURES FOR NON-SMALL CELL LUNG CANCER 

With the help of experts, palliative procedures are extremely useful in helping a patient to get relief from the painful symptoms of NSCLC treatment. It will improve your quality of life and show you better ways to cope with the situation efficiently. Palliative care can also enhance your mental strength to go through this. 

BOTTOM-LINE

Your oncologist will specify the doses of drugs used to treat NSCLC. If you overdose or miss a dose, consider it as a medical emergency and seek help. Be elaborative with the side effects to your physician to treat them properly. 

Disclaimer: The article is solely written for information purpose. Ikris Pharma Network don’t offer any assurance of the therapies, medications, and its effects.