Lung Cancer – Stages and Treatment Options
Lung cancer is one of the most unpleasant forms of cancer. Due to the large size of the lungs, tumors can grow in them for significantly long periods before being detected. The symptoms of lung cancer include coughing and fatigue. It is difficult to identify this disease by these symptoms alone, and thus, it is hard to get an early diagnosis. There are two types of lung cancer – non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. The stages of lung cancer depend on whether cancer has spread from the lungs to other organs, the lymph nodes, or whether it is still local. Early diagnosis of lung cancer can help in treating this condition effectively. Nevertheless, people with lung cancer do have access to various treatment options. Before we get to these treatment options, let’s understand the two types of lung cancer, their stages, and how they affect people in the country.
Non-small cell lung cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for 85% of all lung cancer cases in the country. Adenocarcinoma, a subtype of non-small cell lung cancer, is the most common form, followed by squamous cell carcinoma (25%) and large cell carcinoma (10%).
Stages of non-small cell lung cancer
Stage I: Cancer is local and has not spread to the lymph nodes yet.
Stage II: Cancer has started spreading to other areas of the lungs as well as the lymph nodes nearby.
Stage III: In this stage of the disease, cancer spreads to the middle of the chest, the lymph nodes, and the lungs. It is also known as “locally advanced disease.” It has two subtypes.
- If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes present on the same side of the chest where cancer originated, it is called stage IIIA.
- If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes present on the other side of the chest, or just above the collarbone, it is called stage IIIB.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced form of cancer. It refers to the stage where cancer has spread to the lungs, liver, and other organs, as well as to the fluid in the area around the lungs and other parts of the body.
- Surgery: Stage I and II non-small cell lung cancers are treatable by removing the tumor in the lungs. The surgeon removes the section or lobe of the lung that has the tumor. It is the best treatment option for stage I and stage II lung cancer.
- Chemotherapy and radiation: People who are undergoing surgery to remove the tumor are advised to get chemotherapy after the procedure. Doctors would particularly recommend this for people who have stage II or stage IIIA lung cancer. For tumors that cannot be removed via surgery (stage III and stage IV), chemotherapy and radiation are the best treatment options to cure lung cancer.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is an exciting development in lung cancer treatment. It makes use of the patient’s immune system to treat lung cancer. It fights against dangers like infections and viruses as well as growing cancer cells.
Small cell lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer accounts for around 15 percent of the total lung cancer cases in the country. It tends to spread more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer but is more responsive to chemotherapy.
Stages of small cell lung cancer
Limited stage: The cancer is present on one side of the chest and involves just one part of the lung as well as the lymph nodes that are nearby.
Extensive stage: Cancer has spread to other areas of the chest as well as other regions of the body.
- Chemotherapy and radiation: Chemotherapy is an essential part of small cell lung cancer treatment. Radiation treatment may also be used, depending on the stage of cancer. For limited stage small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy in combination with radiation is the best option. For people who have extensive stage small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy alone is the best lung cancer treatment option.
- Surgery: Surgery may be a good option for people who have limited stage small cell lung cancer without tumors in the lymph nodes. Patients also undergo chemotherapy after getting surgery.
If one gets diagnosed with lung cancer, they must get immediate treatment for this condition. It is relatively easy to treat lung cancer in the early stages. However, it is difficult to detect early-stage lung cancer, which further complicates matters. One can explore the lung cancer treatment options mentioned above and take a doctor’s advice regarding the best treatment for them.