Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Definition of lung cancer: Cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages.
The two main types are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

See also:
Questions to ask your Dr.
Steps to Recovery
Other Treatment Options
Treatment Side Effects
Life-saving Tests
Risk of Recurrence
General Information About Non-Small Cell Lung CancerSource: The website of the National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov)

Key Points

  • Non-small cell lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.
  • There are several types of non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Smoking is the major risk factor for non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Signs of non-small cell lung cancer include a cough that doesn’t go away and shortness of breath.
  • Tests that examine the lungs are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage non-small cell lung cancer.
  • If lung cancer is suspected, a biopsy is done.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
  • For most patients with non-small cell lung cancer, current treatments do not cure the cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs in the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body as you breathe in. They release carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body’s cells, as you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung is slightly larger and has three lobes. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. The bronchi are sometimes also involved in lung cancer. Tiny air sacs called alveoli and small tubes called bronchioles make up the inside of the lungs.

A thin membrane called the pleura covers the outside of each lung and lines the inside wall of the chest cavity. This creates a sac called the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity normally contains a small amount of fluid that helps the lungs move smoothly in the chest when you breathe.

There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer.

There are several types of non-small cell lung cancer.

Each type of non-small cell lung cancer has different kinds of cancer cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
  • Large cell carcinoma: Cancer that may begin in several types of large cells.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in the cells that line the alveoli and make substances such as mucus.

Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are: pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.

Smoking is the major risk factor for non-small cell lung cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk for lung cancer.

Risk factors for lung cancer include the following:

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, now or in the past. This is the most important risk factor for lung cancer. The earlier in life a person starts smoking, the more often a person smokes, and the more years a person smokes, the greater the risk of lung cancer.
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Being exposed to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, beryllium, nickel, soot, or tar in the workplace.
  • Being exposed to radiation from any of the following:
    • Radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
    • Radon in the home or workplace.
    • Imaging tests such as CT scans.
    • Atomic bomb radiation.
  • Living where there is air pollution.
  • Having a family history of lung cancer.
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Taking beta carotene supplements and being a heavy smoker.

Older age is the main risk factor for most cancers. The chance of getting cancer increases as you get older.

When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of lung cancer is increased.

Signs of non-small cell lung cancer include a cough that doesn’t go away and shortness of breath.

Sometimes lung cancer does not cause any signs or symptoms. It may be found during a chest x-ray done for another condition. Signs and symptoms may be caused by lung cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Hoarseness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck.

Tests that examine the lungs are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage non-small cell lung cancer.

Tests and procedures to detect, diagnose, and stage non-small cell lung cancer are often done at the same time. Some of the following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits, including smoking, and past jobs, illnesses, and treatments will also be taken.
  • Laboratory tests : Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body. These tests help to diagnose disease, plan and check treatment, or monitor the disease over time.
  • Chest x-ray: An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the chest, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • Sputum cytology : A procedure in which a pathologist views a sample of sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs) under a microscope, to check for cancer cells.
  • Thoracentesis : The removal of fluid from the space between the lining of the chest and the lung, using a needle. A pathologist views the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

If lung cancer is suspected, a biopsy is done.

One of the following types of biopsies is usually used:

  • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy of the lung: The removal of tissue or fluid from the lung using a thin needle. A CT scan, ultrasound, or other imaging procedure is used to locate the abnormal tissue or fluid in the lung. A small incision may be made in the skin where the biopsy needle is inserted into the abnormal tissue or fluid. A sample is removed with the needle and sent to the laboratory. A pathologist then views the sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A chest x-ray is done after the procedure to make sure no air is leaking from the lung into the chest.
    An endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a type of ultrasound that may be used to guide an FNA biopsy of the lung, lymph nodes, or other areas. EUS is a procedure in which an endoscope is inserted into the body. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. A probe at the end of the endoscope is used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.
  • Bronchoscopy : A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Thoracoscopy : A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the chest to check for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made between two ribs, and a thoracoscope is inserted into the chest. A thoracoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. In some cases, this procedure is used to remove part of the esophagus or lung. If certain tissues, organs, or lymph nodes can’t be reached, a thoracotomy may be done. In this procedure, a larger incision is made between the ribs and the chest is opened.
  • Mediastinoscopy : A surgical procedure to look at the organs, tissues, and lymph nodes between the lungs for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made at the top of the breastbone and a mediastinoscope is inserted into the chest. A mediastinoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Anterior mediastinotomy : A surgical procedure to look at the organs and tissues between the lungs and between the breastbone and heart for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made next to the breastbone and a mediastinoscope is inserted into the chest. A mediastinoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. This is also called the Chamberlain procedure.
  • Lymph node biopsy: The removal of all or part of a lymph node. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

One or more of the following laboratory tests may be done to study the tissue samples:

  • Molecular test : A laboratory test to check for certain genes, proteins, or other molecules in a sample of tissue, blood, or other body fluid. Molecular tests check for certain gene or chromosome changes that occur in non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Immunohistochemistry : A test that uses antibodies to check for certain antigens in a sample of tissue. The antibody is usually linked to a radioactive substance or a dye that causes the tissue to light up under a microscope. This type of test may be used to tell the difference between different types of cancer.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer (the size of the tumor and whether it is in the lung only or has spread to other places in the body).
  • The type of lung cancer.
  • Whether the cancer has mutations (changes) in certain genes, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene or the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene.
  • Whether there are signs and symptoms such as coughing or trouble breathing.
  • The patient’s general health.

For most patients with non-small cell lung cancer, current treatments do not cure the cancer.

Cancer Ireland comment:
There are other treatment options available for you to consider.

Stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Key Points

  • After lung cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the lungs or to other parts of the body.
  • There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.
  • Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.
  • The following stages are used for non-small cell lung cancer:
    • Occult (hidden) stage
    • Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)
    • Stage I
    • Stage II
    • Stage IIIA
    • Stage IIIB
    • Stage IV

After lung cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the lungs or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the lungs or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. Some of the tests used to diagnose non-small cell lung cancer are also used to stage the disease. (See the General Information section.)

Other tests and procedures that may be used in the staging process include the following:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the brain. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the brain, abdomen, and lymph nodes, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do.
  • Bone scan : A procedure to check if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones with cancer and is detected by a scanner.
  • Pulmonary function test (PFT): A test to see how well the lungs are working. It measures how much air the lungs can hold and how quickly air moves into and out of the lungs. It also measures how much oxygen is used and how much carbon dioxide is given off during breathing. This is also called lung function test.
  • Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy : The removal of bone marrow, blood, and a small piece of bone by inserting a hollow needle into the hipbone or breastbone. A pathologist views the bone marrow, blood, and bone under a microscope to look for signs of cancer.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if non-small cell lung cancer spreads to the brain, the cancer cells in the brain are actually lung cancer cells. The disease is metastatic lung cancer, not brain cancer.

The following stages are used for non-small cell lung cancer:

Occult (hidden) stage

In the occult (hidden) stage, cancer cannot be seen by imaging or bronchoscopy. Cancer cells are found in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs) or bronchial washing (a sample of cells taken from inside the airways that lead to the lung). Cancer may have spread to other parts of the body.

Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)

In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the lining of the airways. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer has formed. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB:

  • Stage IA: The tumor is in the lung only and is 3 centimeters or smaller.
  • Stage IB: Cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and one or more of the following is true:
    • The tumor is larger than 3 centimeters but not larger than 5 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB. Stage IIA and IIB are each divided into two sections depending on the size of the tumor, where the tumor is found, and whether there is cancer in the lymph nodes.

  • Stage IIA:

    (1) Cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are within the lung or near the bronchus. Also, one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is not larger than 5 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.

    or

    (2) Cancer has not spread to lymph nodes and one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters but not larger than 7 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.
  • Stage IIB:

    (1) Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are within the lung or near the bronchus. Also, one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters but not larger than 7 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.

    or

    (2) Cancer has not spread to lymph nodes and one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is larger than 7 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus (and is less than 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus), the chest wall, the diaphragm, or the nerve that controls the diaphragm.
    • Cancer has spread to the membrane around the heart or lining the chest wall.
    • The whole lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung).
    • There are one or more separate tumors in the same lobe of the lung.

Stage IIIA

Stage IIIA is divided into three sections depending on the size of the tumor, where the tumor is found, and which lymph nodes have cancer (if any).

(1) Cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are near the sternum (chest bone) or where the bronchus enters the lung. Also:

  • The tumor may be any size.
  • Part of the lung (where the trachea joins the bronchus) or the whole lung may have collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung).
  • There may be one or more separate tumors in the same lobe of the lung.
  • Cancer may have spread to any of the following:
    • Main bronchus, but not the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Chest wall.
    • Diaphragm and the nerve that controls it.
    • Membrane around the lung or lining the chest wall.
    • Membrane around the heart.

or

(2) Cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are within the lung or near the bronchus. Also:

  • The tumor may be any size.
  • The whole lung may have collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung).
  • There may be one or more separate tumors in any of the lobes of the lung with cancer.
  • Cancer may have spread to any of the following:
    • Main bronchus, but not the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Chest wall.
    • Diaphragm and the nerve that controls it.
    • Membrane around the lung or lining the chest wall.
    • Heart or the membrane around it.
    • Major blood vessels that lead to or from the heart.
    • Trachea.
    • Esophagus.
    • Nerve that controls the larynx (voice box).
    • Sternum (chest bone) or backbone.
    • Carina (where the trachea joins the bronchi).

or

(3) Cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and the tumor may be any size. Cancer has spread to any of the following:

  • Heart.
  • Major blood vessels that lead to or from the heart.
  • Trachea.
  • Esophagus.
  • Nerve that controls the larynx (voice box).
  • Sternum (chest bone) or backbone.
  • Carina (where the trachea joins the bronchi).

Stage IIIB

Stage IIIB is divided into two sections depending on the size of the tumor, where the tumor is found, and which lymph nodes have cancer.

(1) Cancer has spread to lymph nodes above the collarbone or to lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest as the tumor. Also:

  • The tumor may be any size.
  • Part of the lung (where the trachea joins the bronchus) or the whole lung may have collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung).
  • There may be one or more separate tumors in any of the lobes of the lung with cancer.
  • Cancer may have spread to any of the following:
    • Main bronchus.
    • Chest wall.
    • Diaphragm and the nerve that controls it.
    • Membrane around the lung or lining the chest wall.
    • Heart or the membrane around it.
    • Major blood vessels that lead to or from the heart.
    • Trachea.
    • Esophagus.
    • Nerve that controls the larynx (voice box).
    • Sternum (chest bone) or backbone.
    • Carina (where the trachea joins the bronchi).

or

(2) Cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are near the sternum (chest bone) or where the bronchus enters the lung. Also:

  • The tumor may be any size.
  • There may be separate tumors in different lobes of the same lung.
  • Cancer has spread to any of the following:
    • Heart.
    • Major blood vessels that lead to or from the heart.
    • Trachea.
    • Esophagus.
    • Nerve that controls the larynx (voice box).
    • Sternum (chest bone) or backbone.
    • Carina (where the trachea joins the bronchi).

Stage IV

In stage IV, the tumor may be any size and cancer may have spread to lymph nodes. One or more of the following is true:

  • There are one or more tumors in both lungs.
  • Cancer is found in fluid around the lungs or the heart.
  • Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, liver, adrenal glands, kidneys, or bone.

Recurrent Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Recurrent non-small cell lung cancer is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the brain, lung, or other parts of the body

Treatment Option Overview

Key Points

  • There are different types of treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Nine types of standard treatment are used:
    • Surgery
    • Radiation therapy
    • Chemotherapy
    • Targeted therapy
    • Laser therapy
    • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
    • Cryosurgery
    • Electrocautery
    • Watchful waiting
  • New types of treatment are being tested in clinical trials.
    • Chemoprevention
    • Radiosensitizers
    • New combinations
  • Treatment for non-small cell lung cancer may cause side effects.
  • Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.
  • Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.
  • Follow-up tests may be needed.

There are different types of treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Different types of treatments are available for patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Nine types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

Four types of surgery are used to treat lung cancer:

  • Wedge resection: Surgery to remove a tumor and some of the normal tissue around it. When a slightly larger amount of tissue is taken, it is called a segmental resection.
    Wedge resection of the lung. Part of the lung lobe containing the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it is removed.
  • Lobectomy: Surgery to remove a whole lobe (section) of the lung.
    Lobectomy. A lobe of the lung is removed.
  • Pneumonectomy: Surgery to remove one whole lung.
    Pneumonectomy. The whole lung is removed.
  • Sleeve resection: Surgery to remove part of the bronchus.

After the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:

  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy is a type of external radiation therapy. Special equipment is used to place the patient in the same position for each radiation treatment. Once a day for several days, a radiation machine aims a larger than usual dose of radiation directly at the tumor. By having the patient in the same position for each treatment, there is less damage to nearby healthy tissue. This procedure is also called stereotactic external-beam radiation therapy and stereotaxic radiation therapy.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a type of external radiation therapy used to treat lung cancer that has spread to the brain. A rigid head frame is attached to the skull to keep the head still during the radiation treatment. A machine aims a single large dose of radiation directly at the tumor in the brain. This procedure does not involve surgery. It is also called stereotaxic radiosurgery, radiosurgery, and radiation surgery.

For tumors in the airways, radiation is given directly to the tumor through an endoscope.

The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It also depends on where the cancer is found. External and internal radiation therapy are used to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy).

The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do. Monoclonal antibodies and tyrosine kinase inhibitors are the two main types of targeted therapy being used to treat advanced, metastatic, or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer.

Monoclonal antibodies

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances in the blood or tissues that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

There are different types of monoclonal antibody therapy:

  • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor therapy: Cancer cells make a substance called VEGF, which causes new blood vessels to form (angiogenesis) and helps the cancer grow. VEGF inhibitors block VEGF and stop new blood vessels from forming. This may kill cancer cells because they need new blood vessels to grow. Bevacizumab and ramucirumab are VEGF inhibitors and angiogenesis inhibitors.
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitor therapy: EGFRs are proteins found on the surface of certain cells, including cancer cells. Epidermal growth factor attaches to the EGFR on the surface of the cell and causes the cells to grow and divide. EGFR inhibitors block the receptor and stop the epidermal growth factor from attaching to the cancer cell. This stops the cancer cell from growing and dividing. Cetuximab and necitumumab are EGFR inhibitors.
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy: PD-1 is a protein on the surface of T cells that helps keep the body’s immune responses in check. When PD-1 attaches to another protein called PDL-1 on a cancer cell, it stops the T cell from killing the cancer cell. PD-1 inhibitors attach to PDL-1 and allow the T cells to kill cancer cells. Nivolumab, pembrolizumab, and atezolizumab are types of immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors are small-molecule drugs that go through the cell membrane and work inside cancer cells to block signals that cancer cells need to grow and divide. Some tyrosine kinase inhibitors also have angiogenesis inhibitor effects.

There are different types of tyrosine kinase inhibitors:

  • Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors: EGFRs are proteins found on the surface and inside certain cells, including cancer cells. Epidermal growth factor attaches to the EGFR inside the cell and sends signals to the tyrosine kinase area of the cell, which tells the cell to grow and divide. EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors stop these signals and stop the cancer cell from growing and dividing. Erlotinib, gefitinib, afatinib, and osimertinib are types of EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Some of these drugs work better when there is also a mutation (change) in the EGFRgene.
  • Kinase inhibitors that affect cells with certain gene changes: Certain changes in the ALK and ROS1 genes cause too much protein to be made. Blocking these proteins may stop the cancer from growing and spreading. Crizotinib is used to stop proteins from being made by the ALK and ROS1 genes. Ceritinib, alectinib, and brigatinib are used to stop proteins from being made by the ALK gene. Dabrafenib is used to stop proteins being made by the BRAF gene. Trametinib is used to stop proteins being made by the MEK gene.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy is a cancer treatment that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to kill cancer cells.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a cancer treatment that uses a drug and a certain type of laser light to kill cancer cells. A drug that is not active until it is exposed to light is injected into a vein. The drug collects more in cancer cells than in normal cells. Fiberoptic tubes are then used to carry the laser light to the cancer cells, where the drug becomes active and kills the cells. Photodynamic therapy causes little damage to healthy tissue. It is used mainly to treat tumors on or just under the skin or in the lining of internal organs. When the tumor is in the airways, PDT is given directly to the tumor through an endoscope.

Cryosurgery

Cryosurgery is a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormaltissue, such as carcinoma in situ. This type of treatment is also called cryotherapy. For tumors in the airways, cryosurgery is done through an endoscope.

Electrocautery

Electrocautery is a treatment that uses a probe or needle heated by an electric current to destroy abnormal tissue. For tumors in the airways, electrocautery is done through an endoscope.

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is closely monitoring a patient’s condition without giving any treatment until signs or symptoms appear or change. This may be done in certain rare cases of non-small cell lung cancer.

Chemoprevention

Chemoprevention is the use of drugs, vitamins, or other substances to reduce the risk of cancer or to reduce the risk cancer will recur (come back). For lung cancer, chemoprevention is used to lessen the chance that a new tumor will form in the lung.

Radiosensitizers

Radiosensitizers are substances that make tumor cells easier to kill with radiation therapy. The combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy given with a radiosensitizer is being studied in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

New combinations

New combinations of treatments are being studied in clinical trials.

Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

For some patients, taking part in a clinical trial may be the best treatment choice. Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment.

Many of today’s standard treatments for cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Patients who take part in clinical trials also help improve the way cancer will be treated in the future. Even when clinical trials do not lead to effective new treatments, they often answer important questions and help move research forward.

Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Follow-up tests may be needed.

Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests.

Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.

Treatment Options by Stage

For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

Occult Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of occult non-small cell lung cancer depends on the stage of the disease. Occult tumors are often found at an early stage (the tumor is in the lung only) and sometimes can be cured by surgery.

Use our clinical trial search to find NCI-supported cancer clinical trials that are accepting patients. You can search for trials based on the type of cancer, the age of the patient, and where the trials are being done. General information about clinical trials is also available.

Stage 0 (Carcinoma in Situ)

Treatment of stage 0 may include the following:

  • Surgery (wedge resection or segmental resection).
  • Photodynamic therapy, electrocautery, cryosurgery, or laser surgery for tumors in or near the bronchus.

Stage I Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of stage I non-small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Surgery (wedge resection, segmental resection, sleeve resection, or lobectomy).
  • External radiation therapy, including stereotactic body radiation therapy for patients who cannot have surgery or choose not to have surgery.
  • A clinical trial of chemotherapy or radiation therapy following surgery.
  • A clinical trial of treatment given through an endoscope, such as photodynamic therapy (PDT).
  • A clinical trial of surgery followed by chemoprevention.

Stage II Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of stage II non-small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Surgery (wedge resection, segmental resection, sleeve resection, lobectomy, or pneumonectomy).
  • Chemotherapy followed by surgery.
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy.
  • External radiation therapy for patients who cannot have surgery.
  • A clinical trial of radiation therapy following surgery.

Stage IIIA Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer that can be removed with surgery may include the following:

  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy.
  • Surgery followed by radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy followed by surgery.
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed by surgery.
  • A clinical trial of new combinations of treatments.

Treatment of stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer that cannot be removed with surgery may include the following:

  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy given over the same period of time or one followed by the other.
  • External radiation therapy alone for patients who cannot be treated with combined therapy, or as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life.
  • Internal radiation therapy or laser surgery, as palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life.
  • A clinical trial of new combinations of treatments.

Non-small cell lung cancer of the superior sulcus, often called Pancoast tumor, begins in the upper part of the lung and spreads to nearby tissues such as the chest wall, large blood vessels, and spine. Treatment of Pancoast tumors may include the following:

  • Radiation therapy alone.
  • Surgery.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy followed by surgery.
  • A clinical trial of new combinations of treatments.

Some stage IIIA non-small cell lung tumors that have grown into the chest wall may be completely removed. Treatment of chest wall tumors may include the following:

  • Surgery.
  • Surgery and radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy alone.
  • Chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy and/or surgery.
  • A clinical trial of new combinations of treatments.

Stage IIIB Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of stage IIIB non-small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Chemotherapy followed by external radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy given as separate treatments over the same period of time.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy given as separate treatments over the same period of time, with the dose of radiation therapy increasing with time.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy given as separate treatments over the same period of time. Chemotherapy alone is given before or after these treatments.
  • External radiation therapy alone for patients who cannot be treated with chemotherapy.
  • External radiation therapy as palliative therapy, to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life.
  • Laser therapy and/or internal radiation therapy to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life.
  • Clinical trials of new external radiation therapy schedules and new types of treatment.
  • A clinical trial of chemotherapy and radiation therapy combined with a radiosensitizer.
  • Clinical trials of targeted therapy combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Newly Diagnosed Stage IV, Relapsed, and Recurrent Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of newly diagnosed stage IV, relapsed, and recurrent non-small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Combination chemotherapy.
  • Combination chemotherapy and targeted therapy with a monoclonal antibody, such as bevacizumab, cetuximab, or necitumumab.
  • Combination chemotherapy followed by more chemotherapy as maintenance therapy to help keep cancer from progressing.
  • Targeted therapy with an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor, such as gefitinib, erlotinib, or afatinib.
  • Targeted therapy with an anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor, such as crizotinib or ceritinib.
  • Targeted therapy with a BRAF or MEK inhibitor, such as dabrafenib or trametinib.
  • Targeted therapy with a monoclonal antibody, such as pembrolizumab.
  • Laser therapy and/or internal radiation therapy for tumors that are blocking the airways.
  • External radiation therapy as palliative therapy, to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life.
  • Surgery to remove a second primary tumor.
  • Surgery to remove cancer that has spread to the brain, followed by radiation therapy to the whole brain.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery for tumors that have spread to the brain and cannot be treated with surgery.
  • A clinical trial of new drugs and combinations of treatments.

Progressive Stage IV, Relapsed, and Recurrent Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of progressive stage IV, relapsed, and recurrent non-small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Targeted therapy with an epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitor, such as erlotinib, gefitinib, afatinib, or osimertinib.
  • Targeted therapy with an anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor, such as crizotinib, ceritinib, alectinib, or brigatinib.
  • Targeted therapy with a BRAF or MEK inhibitor, such as dabrafenib or trametinib.
  • Targeted therapy with a monoclonal antibody, such as nivolumab, pembrolizumab, or atezolizumab.
  • A clinical trial of new drugs and combinations of treatments.

Updated: May 2, 2018
Source: National Cancer Institute


Overdiagnosis.
Some cancers that are diagnosed early do not develop symptoms requiring treatment, while others grow so slowly that the patient outlives the cancer and dies of other causes. Many of these are treated unnecessarily, leading to inflated survival rates.

The authors of this study which looked at cancer overdiagnosis stated: We estimate the magnitude of overdiagnosis from randomized trials: about 50% of chest x-ray and/or sputum-detected lung cancers.

See also

All Your Treatment Options

Tests you need to know about

Vital questions to ask your doctor / oncologist

Steps to Recovery

General Information About Small Cell Lung Cancer

Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute (http://www.cancer.gov)

Key Points

  • Small cell lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.
  • There are two main types of small cell lung cancer.
  • Smoking increases the risk of small cell lung cancer.
  • Signs and symptoms of small cell lung cancer include coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
  • Tests and procedures that examine the lungs are used to detect (find), diagnose, and stage small cell lung cancer.
  • Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
  • For most patients with small cell lung cancer, current treatments do not cure the cancer.

Small cell lung cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the lung.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs that are found in the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body when you breathe in and take out carbon dioxide when you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung, which is slightly larger, has three. A thin membrane called the pleura surrounds the lungs. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. The bronchi are sometimes also affected by lung cancer. Small tubes called bronchioles and tiny air sacs called alveoli make up the inside of the lungs.

There are two main types of small cell lung cancer.

These two types include many different types of cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look when viewed under a microscope:

  • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer).
  • Combined small cell carcinoma.

Risk factors for small cell lung cancer include:

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, now or in the past. This is the most important risk factor for lung cancer. The earlier in life a person starts smoking, the more often a person smokes, and the more years a person smokes, the greater the risk of lung cancer.
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Being exposed to asbestos, arsenic, chromium, beryllium, nickel, soot, or tar in the workplace.
  • Being exposed to radiation from any of the following:
    • Radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
    • Radon in the home or workplace.
    • Imaging tests such as CT scans.
    • Atomic bomb radiation.
  • Living where there is air pollution.
  • Having a family history of lung cancer.
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Taking beta carotene supplements and being a heavy smoker.

Older age is the main risk factor for most cancers. The chance of getting cancer increases as you get older.

When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of lung cancer is increased.

What are the symptoms of Lung Cancer?

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by small cell lung cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Hoarseness.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck.

What Tests are used to diagnose Lung Cancer?

The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Physical exam and history : An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits, including smoking, and past jobs, illnesses, and treatments will also be taken.
  • Laboratory tests : Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body. These tests help to diagnose disease, plan and check treatment, or monitor the disease over time.
  • Chest x-ray : An x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
  • CT scan (CAT scan) of the brain, chest, and abdomen : A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • Sputum cytology : A microscope is used to check for cancer cells in the sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Biopsy : The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist to check for signs of cancer. The different ways a biopsy can be done include the following:
    • Fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy of the lung: The removal of tissue or fluid from the lung, using a thin needle. A CT scan, ultrasound, or other imaging procedure is used to find the abnormal tissue or fluid in the lung. A small incision may be made in the skin where the biopsy needle is inserted into the abnormal tissue or fluid. A sample is removed with the needle and sent to the laboratory. A pathologist then views the sample under a microscope to look for cancer cells. A chest x-ray is done after the procedure to make sure no air is leaking from the lung into the chest.Enlarge
    • Bronchoscopy : A procedure to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung for abnormal areas. A bronchoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth into the trachea and lungs. A bronchoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
    • Thoracoscopy : A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the chest to check for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made between two ribs, and a thoracoscope is inserted into the chest. A thoracoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. In some cases, this procedure is used to remove part of the esophagus or lung. If certain tissues, organs, or lymph nodes can’t be reached, a thoracotomy may be done. In this procedure, a larger incision is made between the ribs and the chest is opened.
    • Thoracentesis : The removal of fluid from the space between the lining of the chest and the lung, using a needle. A pathologist views the fluid under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
    • Mediastinoscopy : A surgical procedure to look at the organs, tissues, and lymph nodes between the lungs for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made at the top of the breastbone and a mediastinoscope is inserted into the chest. A mediastinoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue or lymph node samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
  • Light and electron microscopy : A laboratory test in which cells in a sample of tissue are viewed under regular and high-powered microscopes to look for certain changes in the cells.
  • Immunohistochemistry : A test that uses antibodies to check for certain antigens in a sample of tissue. The antibody is usually linked to a radioactive substance or a dye that causes the tissue to light up under a microscope. This type of test may be used to tell the difference between different types of cancer.

Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer (whether it is in the chest cavity only or has spread to other places in the body).
  • The patient’s age, gender, and general health.

For certain patients, prognosis also depends on whether the patient is treated with both chemotherapy and radiation.

Stages of Small Cell Lung Cancer

After small cell lung cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the chest or to other parts of the body.

The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the chest or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. Some of the tests used to diagnose small cell lung cancer are also used to stage the disease.

Other tests and procedures that may be used in the staging process include the following:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the brain: A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
  • CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, such as the brain, chest or upper abdomen, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan): A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body. A small amount of radioactive glucose (sugar) is injected into a vein. The PET scanner rotates around the body and makes a picture of where glucose is being used in the body. Malignant tumor cells show up brighter in the picture because they are more active and take up more glucose than normal cells do. A PET scan and CT scan may be done at the same time. This is called a PET-CT.
  • Bone scan : A procedure to check if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:

  • Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
  • Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.

Cancer may spread from where it began to other parts of the body.

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began (the primary tumor) and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor (metastatic tumor) in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if small cell lung cancer spreads to the brain, the cancer cells in the brain are actually lung cancer cells. The disease is metastatic small cell lung cancer, not brain cancer.

The following stages are used for small cell lung cancer:

Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer

In limited-stage, cancer is in the lung where it started and may have spread to the area between the lungs or to the lymph nodes above the collarbone.

Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer

In extensive-stage, cancer has spread beyond the lung or the area between the lungs or the lymph nodes above the collarbone to other places in the body.

Recurrent Small Cell Lung Cancer

Recurrent small cell lung cancer is cancer that has recurred (come back) after it has been treated. The cancer may come back in the chest, central nervous system, or in other parts of the body.

Treatment Option Overview

There are different types of treatment for patients with small cell lung cancer.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with small cell lung cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Six types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

Surgery may be used if the cancer is found in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes only. Because this type of lung cancer is usually found in both lungs, surgery alone is not often used. During surgery, the doctor will also remove lymph nodes to find out if they have cancer in them. Sometimes, surgery may be used to remove a sample of lung tissue to find out the exact type of lung cancer.

Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the operation, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer. Prophylactic cranial irradiation (radiation therapy to the brain to reduce the risk that cancer will spread to the brain) may also be given. The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to attack specific cancer cells. Targeted therapies usually cause less harm to normal cells than chemotherapy or radiation therapy do. Monoclonal antibody therapy is a type of targeted therapy being studied to treat extensive-stage and recurrent small cell lung cancer.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a cancer treatment that uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances in the blood or tissues that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy is a type of monoclonal antibody therapy. PD-1 is a protein on the surface of T cells that helps keep the body’s immune responses in check. When PD-1 attaches to another protein called PDL-1 on a cancer cell, it stops the T cell from killing the cancer cell. PD-1 inhibitors attach to PDL-1 and allow the T cells to kill cancer cells. Nivolumab, ipilimumab, and pembrolizumab are types of immune checkpoint inhibitors being studied to treat extensive-stage and recurrent small cell lung cancer.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy is a cancer treatment that uses a laser beam (a narrow beam of intense light) to kill cancer cells.

Endoscopic stent placement

An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument used to look at tissues inside the body. An endoscope has a light and a lens for viewing and may be used to place a stent in a body structure to keep the structure open. An endoscopic stent can be used to open an airway blocked by abnormal tissue.

For most patients with small cell lung cancer, standard treatments do not cure the cancer.


Cancer Ireland comment:
There are other treatment options available for you to consider.


Clinical trials are part of the cancer research process. Clinical trials are done to find out if new cancer treatments are safe and effective or better than the standard treatment. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may receive the standard treatment or be among the first to receive a new treatment.

Some clinical trials only include patients who have not yet received treatment. Other trials test treatments for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There are also clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring (coming back) or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment.

Follow-up tests may be needed.

Some of the tests that were done to diagnose the cancer or to find out the stage of the cancer may be repeated. Some tests will be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This is sometimes called re-staging.

Some of the tests will continue to be done from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). These tests are sometimes called follow-up tests or check-ups.

Treatment Options by Stage

Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of limited-stage small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Combination chemotherapy and radiation therapy to the chest. Radiation therapy to the brain may later be given to patients with complete responses.
  • Combination chemotherapy alone for patients who cannot be given radiation therapy.
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy.
  • Surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy to the brain may be given to patients who have had a complete response, to prevent the spread of cancer to the brain.
  • Clinical trials of new chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments.

Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of extensive-stage small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Combination chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy to the brain, spine, bone, or other parts of the body where the cancer has spread, as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
  • Radiation therapy to the brain may be given to patients who have had a complete response, to prevent the spread of cancer to the brain.
  • Clinical trials of new chemotherapy treatments.

Treatment Options for Recurrent Small Cell Lung Cancer

Treatment of recurrent small cell lung cancer may include the following:

  • Chemotherapy.
  • Targeted therapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors.
  • Radiation therapy as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
  • Laser therapy, stent placement to keep airways open, and/or internal radiation therapy as palliative therapy to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
  • Clinical trials of new chemotherapy treatments.

 

 

Updated: May 11, 2018
Source: National Cancer Institute



Overdiagnosis.
Some cancers that are diagnosed early do not develop symptoms requiring treatment, while others grow so slowly that the patient outlives the cancer and dies of other causes. Many of these are treated unnecessarily, leading to inflated survival rates.

The authors of this study which looked at cancer overdiagnosis stated: We estimate the magnitude of overdiagnosis from randomized trials: about 50% of chest x-ray and/or sputum-detected lung cancers.

See also

All Your Treatment Options

Tests you need to know about

Vital questions to ask your doctor / oncologist

Steps to Recovery

2018 News and Updates

Other treatments

Vitamin C and Doxycycline
This study found that antibiotics, such as Doxycycline, could eradicate Cancer Stem Cells in multiple cancer types. These include: DCIS, breast (ER(+) and ER(-)), ovarian, prostate, lung, and pancreatic carcinomas, as well as melanoma and glioblastoma.  The study authors propose the combined use of Doxycycline and Vitamin C as a new strategy for eradicating CSCs.

Glycyrrhetinic acid
Glycyrrhetinic acid is a bioactive component of licorice
This study demonstrated, for the first time, that Glycyrrhetinic acid decreased cell proliferation of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer cells.

Lycopene and Lung Cancer
Lycopene has been shown to suppress the growth of lung cancer cells, according to this study
Food sources: Tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit

Glycyrrhetinic acid
Glycyrrhetinic acid is a bioactive component of licorice
This study demonstrated, for the first time, that Glycyrrhetinic acid decreased cell proliferation of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer cells.

Artemisinin (Anti-Malaria drug)
This study says Artemisinin and its derivatives markedly suppressed lung-tumor progression and exerted a perfect effect on inhibiting tumor metastasis. Therefore, Artemisinin and its derivatives are excellent chemopreventive candidates with high bioavailability, low toxicity, and significant anti-tumor efficacy.

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)

This study says that H2O2, is a very interesting potential therapeutic tool to fight cancer. The proper and cautious use of H2O2 in combination with commonly used chemotherapeutic drugs may have synergistic effects increasing lung cancer cell death. Particularly, novel therapeutic approaches combining H2O2 with repositioned drugs may help to decrease the mortality from this malignancy.

Taurolidine

This study concluded: The application of taurolidine tends to prevent the development of lung metastases. Furthermore, taurolidine seems to reduce established lung metastases in this in vivo model. Taurolidine may offer additional therapeutic options in patients with colon adenocarcinoma.

For many lung cancer patients, Keytruda is a better initial treatment than chemotherapy, study finds

Source: Los Angeles Times
By Melissa Healy Jun 05, 2018

In findings that may allow many lung cancer patients to avoid chemotherapy, a large clinical trial has shown that the immunotherapy drug Keytruda is a more effective initial treatment for two-thirds of patients with the most common type of lung cancer.

Compared with advanced small-cell lung cancer patients who got chemotherapy, those treated first with Keytruda had a median survival time that was four to eight months longer.

The difference was greatest among patients whose cancers harbored high levels of the genetic mutations Keytruda uses to target malignancy. But even patients whose cancers had very low levels of these mutations outlived patients who got chemotherapy by a median of four months.

In addition, treating lung cancer patients with Keytruda improved quality of life. Among those who got the immunotherapy drug, only 18% experienced severe side effects, compared with 41% on chemotherapy.

The findings, presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, will probably expand Keytruda’s use as a first-line treatment for advanced small-cell lung cancer, the most common form of the disease.
Read the full article in Los Angeles Times


Immunotherapy Drugs for Lung Cancer

Opdivo

The anti-PD-1 Opdivo (nivolumab) was first approved by the FDA in 2015 for use in patients with advanced or metastatic (spreading) NSCLC, regardless of PD-L1 expression, in patients whose disease continues to progress during or after platinum-based chemotherapy. Opdivo can be used in patients with NSCLC that is associated with specific genetic mutations called EGFR or ALK and whose lung cancer progresses despite the use of appropriate therapies. Opdivo is administered intravenously over 60 minutes, once every 2 weeks.

Opdivo was initially approved for patients with squamous NSCLC. The approval was based on a study showing that patients who received Opdivo lived an average of 3.2 months longer than patients who received only standard chemotherapy. Serious adverse effects were seen only in 7% of patients who received Opdivo compared with 55% of patients who received chemotherapy.2

In October 2015, the FDA approved Opdivo for patients with nonsquamous NSCLC after a study showed that the use of Opdivo increased patient survival to an average of 12.2 months compared with 9.4 months with chemotherapy.

The most common adverse events reported with Opdivo are usually mild and less than that observed with chemotherapy, consisting of fatigue, rash, musculoskeletal pain, pruritus, diarrhea, nausea, muscle weakness, cough, difficulty breathing, constipation, decreased appetite, back pain, joint pain, upper respiratory tract infection, and fever.

Opdivo

Source: European Medicines Agency

Opdivo is a cancer medicine used on its own or with another cancer medicine, ipilimumab, to treat adults with advanced melanom a, a type of skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body orcannot be surgically removed.
Opdivo is also used on its own to treat adults with:
•a lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that has spread locally or to other parts of the body in patients who have previously been treated with other cancer medicines
(chemotherapy)
In NSCLC that had spread locally or to other parts of the body, Opdivo improved the average time patients survived compared with docetaxel (another cancer medicine). Studies have shown benefit in two forms of NSCLC, known as non- squamous and squamous.
For non -squamous NSCLC , one main study involved 582 patients whose disease had progressed despite previous treatments. The average survival with Opdivo was 12 .2 months,compared with 9.4 months with docetaxel.
For squamous NSCLC, a study involving 272 patients showed that patients given Opdivo survived for 9.2 months, compared with 6.0 months in patients given docetaxel .
Supportive information was also provided from another study indicating that Opdivo could produce a response in patients with squamous NSCLC whose disease had progressed despite several previous treatments.

Tecentriq


Non
-small cell lung cancer
In patients with non-small cell lung cancer which is advanced or has spread, Tecentriq has been shown to be more effective than a comparator medicine at prolonging patients’ lives. In one main study of
850 patients, those patients given Tecentriq lived on average for 14 months while those given another cancer medicine, docetaxel, lived for an average of 10 months. Similar results were seen in a second
lung cancer study of 287 patients where on average patients on Tecentriq lived for 13 months compared with 10 months for patients on docetaxel.
What are the risks associated with Tecentriq?
The most common side effects with Tecentriq (which may affect more than 1 in 10 people) are tiredness, reduced appetite, nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting, difficulty breathing, diarrhoea, rash, fever, joint pain, weakness and itching.

New device to detect Lung cancer

Zheng Xin (18) a young scientist from Malaysia, has invented a sensor that can detect the progression of lung cancer by analyzing the breath of subjects. The device costs only $1, is easy for anyone to operate, and it can provide test results within 10 minutes. Zheng Xin believes his device can help doctors and patients to catch lung cancer early enough to treat it easily and potentially eliminate the cancer entirely.

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