Is it possible to cure lung cancer? Those who first hear the terrible diagnosis ask their doctors this question. Lung cancer is a severe disease. To realize how to cure lung cancer, one has to undergo the thorough examination. Thus, the location and the size of the malformation must be determined as well as the presence, location and number of metastases. Doctors determine histological type of tumor and take into consideration the overall health condition of the patient.
Only then doctors can understand how to cure lung cancer. Surgical methods, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used to reach this goal. Surgery is the basis of all the treatment. Only surgery will give a chance to get rid of lung cancer completely. However, it is not always possible. Let’s talk about kinds of treatment a person receives at the different stages of this illness and results that can be expected.
Lung cancer: how to treat?
There are two main groups of malignant tumors growing out of the bronchi epithelium. These are small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Treatment efficiency will largely depend on the histological type of the tumor. The prognosis is much better for non-small cell tumors. If the oncologic process was detected early then the patient can be cured completely.
Lung cancer treatment will have utmost effect at the stage 0. This stage is diagnosed when the tumor is confined to the bronchial mucosa. Perhaps it penetrates into its lumen and blocks the airways. But it does not spread into the lung tissue.
The optimal method of lung cancer treatment in this case is a surgery. It is carried out as the only therapeutic intervention. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are not required here. The surgeon performs segmental or sphenoid resection. Sometimes a doctor removes the whole lung. The choice of surgery type depends on the location of the neoplasm.
Western countries started to use non-surgical lung cancer treatment at the stage 0. Here we talk about only non-small cell tumors. Brachytherapy or photodynamic therapy can be used as the main methods. Sometimes laser therapy is also used.
The essence of these techniques:
- Brachytherapy is a way of lung cancer treatment with the help of radiation. Brachytherapy is carried out not remotely, as with conventional radiation therapy, but with the introduction of radioactive granules. They are delivered directly to pathologically altered tissues. As a result, a small tumor is destroyed.
- Laser therapy. Lung cancer can be treated with minimally invasive techniques. The laser allows doctor to cause tissue necrosis in the area of exposure. The tumor is simply evaporated, because the laser instantly raises the temperature of the liquid inside the cells to high temperatures. As a result of the procedure, the tissues of the neoplasm die, which can lead to a complete cure.
- Photodynamic therapy. Special substances are introduced to the patient's body and accumulated in the tissues of the tumor. Then they are exposed to the light waves with certain characteristics. Waves activate the substance that has been accumulated inside the tumor cells. After this, the cells die and the tumor is destroyed.
Is it possible to cure lung cancer at stage 1?
Patients often ask if it is possible to cure lung cancer at an early stage. Yes it is possible. But the disease is rarely found at the early stage. If the patient is lucky, and he has a malformation at stage one, he has good chances of curing the pathology.
How to cure lung cancer at stage 1? A surgery is used for this in patients with non-small cell cancer. It is performed in the majority of patients. Surgeons remove the lobe of the lung, less often they perform segmental or wedge resection. The nearest lymph nodes are also removed. In the future they will be checked for the presence of atypical cells.
Indications for wedge or segmental resection are limited. Basically, such an operation is recommended for patients with a small neoplasm size. Those who cannot go through the removal of the lung lobe due to a weakened condition or the presence of somatic pathology are among this number. Do not forget that patients with lung cancer are mainly elderly people. But still, even such a small surgery is dangerous in terms of survival. Cancer often recurs. Therefore, doctors try to remove the whole lobe.
After surgery, lung cancer treatment can be supplemented with chemotherapy. It is required if there is a high risk of recurrence of the disease.
This risk is determined based on:
- Neoplasm size
- Its location
- Histological type of tumor
In the developed countries genetic diagnostics is performed. Thus, a type of tumor is determined and doctors can predict if the patients needs chemotherapy and if it will improve the treatment results.
After the operation, the edges of the excised tissue are checked for the presence of tumor cells. If there are no of them, then the surgical intervention was successful. But if such cells are present, this indicates a high risk of recurrence. Then, either a second operation or radiation therapy is required.
Lung cancer treatment with the help of a surgery can be impossible for certain patients even at the stage 1. Such patients can have medical contraindications to the surgery performing. If there are any doubts that a patient will survive after the intervention, doctors use alternative therapeutic methods.
- Radiation therapy
- Radiofrequency ablation
These methods do not provide complete cure in the majority of cases. However, they reduce tumor size and slow down its growth. As a result, a person can live longer.
Small-cell cancer prognosis can be unfavorable even at stage one. Even the surgery is not always carried out. First, the examination is needed to find out if cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or to the mediastinum. Mediastinoscopy is done to determine these facts. If the tumor has not spread, surgeons remove the entire lung, or at least one lobe.
Afterwards, a doctor provides lung cancer treatment with the help of chemotherapy. If metastases were detected in the removed lymph nodes, the radiation therapy is performed. It is applied together with the chemotherapy. Such treatment is poorly tolerated by the patients. But it gives better results in the survival perspective. Radiation therapy can be excluded if it carries threat to the health and if there are medical contraindications.
Taking into account, that small-cell lung cancer gives metastases into the brain, doctors can prescribe preventive radiation to increase patient’s life expectancy. Radiation doses used are not significant. They help to prevent the growth of the secondary tumors in the central nervous system structures.
Is it possible to cure lung cancer at the stage 2?
Now, let’s discuss, if it’s possible to cure lung cancer at stage 2. If we talk about small-cell tumor – there is not such a chance in the majority of cases. Often, doctors don’t even consider the surgical intervention in such patients. They receive both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Such therapy gives good results. Sometimes tumor reduces its size significantly and then doctors cannot see it on the x-ray or CT. But one shouldn’t have any illusionary hopes as for a complete cure. Lung cancer at the stage 2 cannot be cured if it’s a small-cell cancer in the majority of people. The recurrence will happen sooner or later.
The question is if it’s possible to cure non-small cell lung cancer at the stage 2? In such case, the prognosis is much better. Most often, the whole lung or its lobe is removed. Lymph nodes are also removed. The next stage of treatment is planned depending on the investigation of the edges of the wound and the removed lymph nodes. Doctors check presence of tumor cells.
Chemotherapy, and sometimes radiation therapy, can be performed before the surgery. They help to reduce the size of the tumor. As a result, surgical intervention will be less traumatic, safer and more effective.
Same methods are used in case of finding atypical cells in the wound edges after the surgery. Then radiation therapy and chemotherapy are used together. If the edges of the wound are clean, lung cancer treatment using only chemotherapy without irradiation is provided.
Is it possible to cure lung cancer at the stage 3?
Lung cancer at the stage 3A is treated only by radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The surgery can be prescribed. However, thorough examination of the patient is required. Check-up is necessary to assess if it’s possible to cure lung cancer at the stage 3 by means of the surgical intervention.
- Location of the tumor
- Its prevalence
- The presence of metastases and their number
- Lymph nodes the tumor has spread into
- Overall health of the patient
Neoplasm often has a considerably large size at the stage 3A. That’s why chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used before surgery and then also after it. Preoperative preparation is not carried out in this way for certain patients. If a person received radiation at the pre-operative stage, it might not be prescribed after the operation (it is limited to chemotherapy alone to reduce the number of side effects).
With sub-stage B, lung cancer cure at the stage 3 is not possible. Metastases have spread to the adjacent lung or neck area. The entire tumor mass cannot be removed. Therefore, lung cancer is treated at this stage only through chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
With small-cell lung cancer at the stage 3, it is not recommended to treat a patient with surgery. Only irradiation is carried out, and medications are prescribed to suppress tumor growth. Preventive radiation of the skull can be prescribed to avoid the growth of metastases in the brain. In many cases this helps to prolong the life of the patient.
Is it possible to cure lung cancer at the last stage?
Sometimes patients ask whether it is possible to cure lung cancer at the 4th stage. Unfortunately, this pathology cannot be cured, regardless of the histological type of tumor. In most cases, the corresponding diagnosis indicates that the patient has only a few months to live.
Curing lung cancer at the stage 4 is impossible. Therefore, radical operations are not carried out. Before beginning the therapy, you must clearly understand its goals. It is not necessary to have illusions that it is possible to cure lung cancer at the stage 4.
The goals of treatment are:
- Facilitating the patient's condition
- Maintaining vital functions
- Slowing of tumor growth and prolongation of patient’s life
Different methods are used. The choice of ways to treat lung cancer at the stage 4 depends on what kind of tumor it is, and where the metastases are. The size of the neoplasm and the general condition of the patient are taken into account.
To treat the lung cancer at the stage 4 doctors use such options:
- Chemotherapy with radiation therapy
- Palliative surgeries
- Targeted therapy
- Immune therapy
To alleviate the symptoms, laser therapy and photodynamic therapy are often used in developed countries. They don’t help to cure lung cancer stage 4, but still prolong the patient's life and improve its quality.
Surgery in patients with lung cancer
Surgery remains the only way to cure the disease completely. In many cases this goal is achievable, especially with non-small cell tumors.
Basically, surgical treatment involves the removal of the whole lung or its lobe. In this case the lymph nodes and the surrounding tissue are removed by a single unit. There should be no tumor cells in the edges of the wound, crossed bronchi and vessels after the intervention. This significantly improves the prognosis.
But not all patients undergo an operation. Moreover, most patients with lung cancer cannot undergo it. The reason for this is the belated detection of cancerous formation. Often it is identified at later stages, because this disease does not have early symptoms that force a person to see a doctor.
Here are the main cases, why lung cancer is inoperable:
- The presence of metastases in distant organs that is confirmed after biopsy and histological examination
- Remote metastases in the lymph nodes, aorta, upper vena cava, etc.
- Tumor metastases in the opposite main bronchus
- Spread of the neoplasm to the pleura with its inflammation
Another case when lung cancer is not operated includes situations when the patient cannot survive the surgery. Many patients have severe concomitant somatic pathology.
Life expectancy after the surgery with lung cancer depends on the stage at which it is performed, histological type of tumor and its location. There is no single answer to this question. Because one patient has a complete cure and another has a relapse after several months. With complete cure, the patient's life expectancy after surgical treatment is the same as the average in the population.
In any case, if you are going to be treated surgically, this indicates that the chances of surviving are good. Doctors do not take responsibility to operate a patient with poor prognosis at all. Such patients only receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Surgical treatment can have different efficacy in different hospitals. It is better to undergo a surgery in Germany. Many patients from developing countries receive medical care in German hospitals, if they have the financial means to do so. At home the treatment is cheaper. The surgery for lung cancer in Ukraine or Russia cannot cost same price as in Germany. Healthcare in Germany is more expensive, but also more qualitative. On our website you can find out how much it costs to have surgery for lung cancer in different clinics and countries.
Chemotherapy for lung cancer treatment
Dozens of patients are not aware of what is chemotherapy for lung cancer treatment. This is prescription of drugs that have negative influence on the life of cells. First of all, those that divide quickly. As a result chemotherapy for lung cancer leads to the reduction of tumor.
Chemotherapy for lung cancer can have various goals. It is also prescribed at different stages of treatment. Anti-cancer medications can be used:
- Before surgery. In this case, drugs can reduce the size of malformation and increase its resectability. After the tumor is reduced in volume, the operation becomes less traumatic. It can also be more effective.
- After surgery. The goal of radical treatment is complete removal of the neoplasm. At the same time, 25-35% of patients have relapses even in the case of an operation at stage 1. Therefore, , chemotherapy is often prescribed after surgery to kill the remaining tumor cells and reduce the risk of recurrence.
- Instead of surgery. Most patients are diagnosed at the late stages. The tumor is revealed at a late stage. Therefore, chemotherapy for lung cancer becomes an alternative to surgery. It does not allow curing the disease completely, but prolongs patient`s life.
A doctor defines how to treat lung cancer. Modern drugs can offer good results in the therapy of this disease. In addition to cytostatics, targeted lung cancer therapy is increasingly being used in different countries. It is usually administered at the late stages. Like chemotherapy, targeted drugs can improve life expectancy and ease the patient's condition.
Unfortunately, drugs are not always tolerated well by patients. They often cause side effects, especially in weakened patients. In this case in modern hospitals symptomatic therapy is performed. Doctors prescribe drugs that allow alleviating most of the unwanted effects of chemotherapy for lung cancer. Reducing the number of side effects can be achieved by using chemotherapy without radiation therapy. In addition, doctor can reduce the dose of drugs. Although the effect will be less expressed, this treatment is much better tolerated.
Radiation therapy of the lung cancer
Radiation therapy for lung cancer is often an additive to the surgery and drugs. It is rarely performed before the surgery. However, doctors often recommend the therapy after the operation, especially starting with the stage 2 of the pathology. Radiation therapy for lung cancer is normally conducted together with chemotherapy.
At stages 3-4 irradiation is often used as an alternative to surgical intervention. It can prolong life and reduce symptoms for inoperable patients.
At stage 0 of non-small cell lung cancer, contact radiation therapy can be used without surgery. If the neoplasm is small and does not extend beyond the mucous membrane of the bronchus, brachytherapy may be used to remove it. Granules with a radioactive substance are introduced into the bronchi. They cause necrosis of tissues of cancer formation. In the case of proper selection of patients for this procedure, relapses are observed rarely.
Radiosurgery can be used at late stages. It is not considered to be radiation therapy, although the principle is the same. Beams of ionizing radiation are sent to the tissue. They cause death of the cells of the neoplasm. Radiosurgery uses high, but precisely directed radiation doses.
Therapy aimed at alleviating the condition of the patient has great importance. A diet for lung cancer is often prescribed. It should be a high-calorie one. Because presence of any tumor is usually accompanied by a patient's losing weight, down to exhaustion. The tumor takes away most of the nutrients from the blood and uses them for its own growth. But frequent and high-calorie nutrition can prevent rapid weight loss and weakening of the body.
Medication treatment is often applied. To stop hemoptysis in lung cancer, doctors can use hemostatic drugs. They do not always help. In this case, a small surgical intervention is required. Coagulation of bleeding vessels can stop bleeding.
Cough cure in lung cancer patients is not easy. Usually expectorants do not help. Because the tumor irritates the receptors of the bronchi, coughing is not always productive. Fighting cough in patients with lung cancer can be successful in case of antitussive drugs administration. They have a central mechanism of action and block the cough reflex.
It is even harder to treat dyspnea in patients with lung cancer. It is often caused by the fact that the tumor blocks the lumen of the bronchus. In this case either a palliative surgery or radiation therapy is required. Dyspnea may also be associated with pleural effusion. This is an unfavorable prognostic sign. Pleural puncture with removing the liquid will help to temporarily improve the situation.
Analgesics in lung cancer are needed for almost all patients at terminal stages of the disease. Usually, pain is poorly expressed at the initial stages. But as soon as the neoplasm grows into the pleura or mediastinum, there is a need to reduce pain in lung cancer. For this, narcotic analgesics are used. They can significantly alleviate pain in lung cancer. Most often, these drugs are used at the terminal stage of the disease.
Treatment in Germany
German hospitals use the most modern methods of therapeutic influence on lung cancer. Here high-precision studies are used to plan the tactics of treatment correctly. The newest operations are performed, providing less blood loss and a low risk of complications. In the postoperative period the patient receives a highly qualified care, which allows him to recover faster and more comfortably.
Minimally invasive procedures are successfully used for the treatment of lung cancer of the initial stage in Germany. And at later stages, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used. In developed countries these techniques have advantages. Thanks to the latest equipment, doctors can reduce the radiation dose for healthy tissues. At the same time the tumor receives the maximum dose of radiation, and this increases the effectiveness of therapy.
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Author: Dr. Nadezhda Ivanisova