What is non-small cell lung cancer?
Νon-small cell lung cancer is a lung cancer. It develops when when normal lung cells become abnormal and grow uncontrollably and autonomously. There are several types of lung cancer. Some types of cancer grow very aggressively, while others more slowly. The non-small cell lung cancer is the commonest type of lung cancer. Usually, it does not multiply as fast as another form of lung cancer called small cell lung cancer.
What is the staging of non small cell lung cancer?
The staging of cancer is one way in which doctors describe how advanced a cancer is. Stages of non small cell lung cancer are 4 in total and are named as follows: Stage 1(I), 2(II), 3(III) and 4(IV). Sometimes staging is not a straightforward procedure, so maybe your doctor believes preoperatively that you have stage II, but after surgery it is proved for instance that eventually the stage was III.
Some of the main differences among the various stages include the following:
- In stage 1, lung cancer is found on either the left or the right lung. It has not spread beyond the lungs or in any lymph nodes. Lung cancer stage 1 is small in size.
- In stage 2, cancer has spread to other parts, eg lymph nodes of the lungs. It can have various sizes and is usually greater than stage 1.
- In stage 3, cancer can be large and / or has spread to lymph nodes in the midline of the chest, between the right and left lung.
- In stage 4, cancer has extended to the opposite lung, or other body parts, such as the brain and bones. It may also be accompanied by pleural effusion or pericardial effusion (fluid around the lungs or heart, respectively). Treatment depends largely on the staging of NSCLC.
How is non-small cell lung stage 1 and 2 treated?
Patients suffering from NSCLC stage 1 or 2 usually are leaded to surgery to remove cancer. The surgeon can remove a piece of the lung to achieve the removal of the tumor. But it may be necessary to remove even the entire lung. In this case, the patient uses one lung to breathe for the rest of his life. People suffering from cancer stage 1 may not need further treatment after surgery. On the opposite, patients with stage 2 usually do require additional treatment after surgery. This may include the following:
- Radiotherapy – radiation kills cancer cells. Patients who do not want to undergo surgery, or who can not be operated because of their bad general health status, may receive radiation therapy instead of surgery.
- Chemotherapy – Includes several drugs that kill cancer cells.
How is non-small cell lung stage 3 treated?
In stage 3 cancer, there are several treatment options. Treatment depends on where the cancer is located, how large is the cancer and whether the patient has already received any treatment in the past. Usually, patients with stage 3 receive one or more of the following treatments:
How is non-small cell lung stage 4 treated?
There is no treatment that completely cures NSCLC stage 4. However, the various treatment options reduce symptoms and help patients live longer. Treatment options include:
- Target therapy – Here are several drugs that have activity against tumors with specific genetic characteristics. Your doctor may recommend you to undergo specialized tests to find out whether your cancer has these special features and is thus suitable for treatment with target therapy.
- Surgery to remove cancer or part of it.
- Treatment of symptoms. For example, if there is difficulty in breathing due to pleural effusion (fluid around the lung), your doctor will recommend a pleural drainage of the fluid in order to alleviate your sense of dyspnea.
What happens after treatment?
After completion of treatment, your doctor will assess you to determine if the cancer is cured or not. It is likely to order you chest radiographs, CT scans and blood tests.
What else can a patient make?
It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the various tests and examinations. It is also important to discuss with him about any problems or side effects during treatment. The therapeutic options for treatment of non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) require decisions from the patient, such as the type of treatment received. Finally, every time you are proposed a treatment from your doctor, you can ask the following:
- What is the benefit from this treatment? Is it possible to increase my survival? Can the treatment reduce or relieve my symptoms?
- What is the main disadvantage of this treatment?
- Are there any other alternatives of this treatment?
- What happens if I do not receive this treatment?