If you are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), your medical team will go through every treatment option available to find those suited to your condition. It is paramount to take enough time to weigh your options. You should compare the advantages, potential side effects, and risk factors of all NSCLC treatments.
Primary NSCLC Treatments
Oncologists determine the appropriate NSCLC treatments according to the patient’s cancer stage, as well as other determinants that play a crucial role in the efficacy of your treatment plan.
As reported by the American Cancer Society, the primary therapy options consist of radiation therapy, surgery, radiofrequency ablation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted drugs, and palliative options for symptom relief.
More often than not, a patient’s treatment protocol consists of more than one therapy. This is ultimately decided by your oncologist or medical team.
Your medical team may consist of a diverse group of medical professionals, including radiation and medical oncologists, a pulmonologist, and a thoracic surgeon. Nurse practitioners along with nutrition and respiratory specialists may also be involved in your treatment.
Stage-by-stage NSCLC Treatments
A patient’s stage, in addition to their general health and lung capacity, plays an integral role in determining the type of treatment he/she should undergo.
One integral part of every treatment plan necessitates that patients with NSCLC quit smoking. Extensive research has revealed that individuals who quit smoking following their diagnosis extend their survival duration.
Stage 0 NSCLC Treatments
At stage 0 NSCLC, the cancer remains in the outer layer of passageways in the lung. As it has not reached deep into the tissue or other membranes, surgery alone is typically sufficient for the removal of the tumour without a need for a course of chemotherapy or radiation.
Stage I NSCLC Treatments
For those with stage I NSCLC, surgery is also the primary choice of treatment. This can either be a lobectomy or segmentectomy. To lower the risk of a recurrence, patients may also be recommended to undergo a course of adjuvant chemotherapy following their surgery.
Stage II NSCLC Treatments
Patients with stage II NSCLC typically undergo a lobectomy or a sleeve resection, provided they are in good enough health to handle an operation. Some patients also undergo a course of chemotherapy—sometimes in conjunction with radiation therapy—prior to surgery. This is to shrink the mass, rendering the operation less risky. Those with serious conditions, where surgery is not viable, usually only receive a course of radiation therapy.
Stage IIIA and IIIB NSCLC Treatments
For patients with IIIA NSCLC, the recommended treatment approach includes a mix of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This is done with surgery if necessary. The size, location, and spread of your tumour determine the optimal treatment approach.
In IIIB NSCLC, the tumour will have extensively spread to nearby tissues, such as the neck. As a result, surgery is not a viable option. The standard approach involves a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, provided the patient is healthy enough for such treatments. As NSCLC is more difficult to treat at this stage, participating in a clinical trial may be fruitful for some individuals.
Stage IV NSCLC Treatments
This stage of NSCLC is the most precarious and unresponsive to treatments. At this point, the tumour will have spread to farther tissues or organs in the body. The tumour count, the extent of its spread, and your general state of health are three important factors that determine the approach to treatment and the outcome. Granted the patient’s in good health, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, targeted drugs, and surgery are all options to alleviate symptoms and prolong their life.
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