Lung Cancer Treatments

The best lung cancer treatment requires a multidisciplinary team approach. Aurora lung cancer patients benefit from multidisciplinary case reviews, which can include specialists from various disciplines.

  • Cancer Nurse Navigator: a registered nurse with special training who can help answer questions and provide information on resources and support services.
  • Medical oncologist: a physician specializing in treating cancer with chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or immunotherapy.
  • Pathologist: a physician who examines tissues and cells under a microscope to determine if they are normal or abnormal.
  • Pulmonologist: a physician specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of lung diseases.
  • Interventional pulmonologist: a physician who uses advanced bronchoscopic techniques to diagnose and treat lung cancer and other lung diseases.
  • Radiation oncologist: a physician specializing in treating cancer with radiation therapy.
  • Radiologist: a physician who uses X-rays and other imaging tests to diagnose disease.
  • Thoracic surgeon: a physician specializing in performing chest surgery.

Treatment plans are customized for each patient by our team of experts and may include lung cancer surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or CyberKnife radiosurgery.

Your treatment depends on a number of factors, including the type of lung cancer, the size, location and extent of the tumor, and your general health. Many different treatments and combination of treatments may be used to control or cure lung cancer. These treatments may also be used to improve your quality of life by reducing symptoms.

Surgery

The type of surgery performed depends on the location of the tumor in your lung. An operation to remove only a small part of the lung is called a segmental or wedge resection. When the surgeon removes an entire lobe of the lung, the procedure is called a lobectomy. Pneumonectomy is the removal of an entire lung on one side. Some tumors are inoperable (cannot be removed by surgery) because of the size or location, and some patients cannot have surgery for other medical reasons.

Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS)

Traditional lung cancer surgery involves an open incision. VATS surgery is a minimally invasive lung surgery that uses a scope to reach the cancer. Instead of a single long incision, VATS involves just three to four small incisions, a tiny video camera and special instruments. Pain, hospital stay, blood loss, recovery and risk of complication are less than with traditional surgery. Most surgical patients are eligible for VATS, and cancer control is equal to traditional lung cancer surgery.

Radiation Therapy

Also called radiotherapy, this therapyinvolves using high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is directed to a limited area and affects the cancer cells only in that area. It may be used before surgery to shrink a tumor, or after surgery to destroy cancer cells that remain in the treated area. Our doctors also use radiation therapy, often combined with chemotherapy, as primary treatment instead of surgery. In addition, radiation therapy may be used to relieve symptoms such as shortness of breath and pain. Radiation for the treatment of lung cancer most often comes from a machine (external radiation).

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells throughout your body. Even after cancer has been removed from the lung, cancer cells may still be present in nearby tissue or elsewhere in the body. Chemotherapy may be used to control cancer growth or relieve symptoms. Most anticancer drugs are given by injection directly into a vein (IV) or by means of a catheter, a thin tube that is placed into a large vein and remains there as long as it is needed. Several anticancer drugs are given in the form of a pill. Some chemotherapy treatments for lung cancer may be given before surgery and some may continue for several months after surgery.

CyberKnife Radiosurgery

CyberKnife is a precise, painless, non-invasive radiation treatment that can be an alternative to open surgery in certain cases. Multiple beams of high-energy radiation are delivered from multiple points outside of the body and converge precisely at the tumor or lesion inside the body. Each individual beam is not sufficient to cause harm, but the convergence of all the beams at the tumor result in the lesion receiving a very high dose of radiation while sparing nearby normal tissue.

Wedge Resection with Brachymesh Therapy

We use thissurgical if you can not tolerate having a whole lobe of your lung removed. Brachymesh refers to a surgical mesh that contains radioactive seeds. The mesh is used when a lung surgeon removes a lung cancer using a "wedge" type of surgery. During surgery the brachymesh may be sewn directly over the surgical bed after the cancer is removed from the lung but before the chest is closed. The radiation sources remain permanently in the chest and continuously treat the tumor site for several weeks (until the sources decay down). When the radiation has been completely delivered, your risk of local cancer recurrence is greatly reduced.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials offer additional treatment options for some patients. Some promising new treatments may only be available in a research setting. Aurora offers access to these clinical trials of therapies that might not be widely available elsewhere.

Palliative Treatments

Palliative treatments are often used to relieve or prevent symptoms caused by advanced lung cancer. The goal of these treatments is to improve your level of comfort and quality of life.

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

This treatment uses drugs called photosensitizes, along with light to kill your cancer cells. The drugs only work after they have been activated or "turned on" by certain kinds of light. PDT treats tumors that are on the lining of internal organs. It is often used to relieve symptoms in patients that have lung cancer that obstructs an airway or esophageal cancer that blocks the esophagus.

Brachytherapy

Also known as internal radiation therapy, Brachytherapy places small radioactive tubes directly into your bronchus (breathing tube) using a bronchoscope. These tubes deliver radiation therapy directly to the tumor and stay in place for only a short period of time. Brachytherapy provides a high dose of radiation therapy to tumors in the airway with the goal of opening blocked lobes of lung.

Tracheal and Bronchial Stenting

Lung tumors can cause an airway (trachea or bronchus) to become obstructed leading to shortness of breath. A stent is a hollow tube used to keep an airway open and /or prevent it from collapsing.

Talc Pleurodesis

This procedure removes fluid from around your lung (pleurodesis) and prevents it from coming back. A small cut is made in the skin of the chest wall, and a hollow tube (chest tube) is placed into the chest to remove the fluid. Talc is then instilled into the chest cavity. This causes the linings of the lung (pleura) to stick together sealing the space and preventing further fluid buildup.

Tunneled Pleural Catheters

A hollow tube (chest tube) is placed into the chest to remove fluid from around your lung. The tube is left in place to keep the chest free of fluid. Patients can then drain the fluid themselves at home. You can leave the tube in place until the chest stops draining fluid.