Treatment of Lung Cancer

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Chemotherapy

When is chemotherapy used?

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)1

Chemotherapy is the main treatment for SCLC, because SCLC tends to respond well to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs circulate in the bloodstream around the body and hence can reach and attack cancer cells that have spread from the lungs to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy may be used on its own to treat SCLC, or it may be prescribed following surgery.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)2

In the case of NSCLC, chemotherapy is a common treatment though not the only one. Chemotherapy may be prescribed before surgery to shrink the tumour in the lung and make it easier to remove. If the NSCLC is in its early stages, chemotherapy after surgery can help to lower the risk of a relapse. Sometimes, in cases where surgery is not possible, chemotherapy can also be used to get rid of early stage NSCLC.

If the cancer is at an advanced stage, chemotherapy may also be used to extend the patient’s life, even if the cancer cannot be cured.

How is chemotherapy used?1,2

Chemotherapy is mostly given intravenously into the bloodstream, but there are also oral chemotherapy medications.

Intravenous chemotherapy

Patients usually have intravenous chemotherapy on a regular schedule, with each period of treatment being called a cycle. The drugs enter the body in various ways, including via a

  • Cannula. A cannula is inserted into a vein in the arm, and chemotherapy drugs are fed into the body through a drip.
  • Central line. This is a plastic tube usually inserted into the chest or neck, that delivers the chemotherapy drugs into a large vein. The tube may remain in for the duration of the treatment, which could be a few months.
  • PICC line. This is a long and thin tube inserted through a vein in the arm to deliver chemotherapy drugs to the chest.
  • Port-a-cath. An implantable venous access device, this “wearable” port is inserted under the skin on the chest. It delivers a continuous flow of drugs to the body.
Oral chemotherapy3

Chemotherapy medication must be taken according to doctor’s instructions—it is crucial to take the right dose in the correct way.

References
1 American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy for Small Cell Lung Cancer. Retrieved on October 2020 from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/treating-small-cell/chemotherapy.html
2 American Cancer Society. Chemotherapy for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Retrieved on October 2020 from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/treating-non-small-cell/chemotherapy.html
3 American Cancer Society. Getting Oral or Topical Chemotherapy. Retrieved on October 2020 from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy/oral-chemotherapy.html

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