• News
  • Which Lung Cancer Treatment Could Be The Best For You?

Which Lung Cancer Treatment Could Be The Best For You?

Lung Cancer is one of the most feared cancers around, partly because it has a high mortality rate compared with some other cancers, but also because it is so heavily associated with smoking. The significance of the latter point can be found in the fact that a succession of UK governments, as well as others around the world, have spent decades trying to curb smoking, both directly by those wanting to light up themselves and also ‘passive smoking’, where people inhale smoke produced by those around them. Indeed, both of these are believed to be causes of lung cancer, with some people suffering without being smokers themselves. A famous case was that of the entertainer Roy Castle, who died in 1994 from lung cancer. He blamed the condition on spending years performing in venues where he was exposed to large quantities of cigarette smoke. Cases like this led to a ban on smoking in pubs in England and Wales in 2007, while the latest policy measure was to raise the legal minimum age of smoking by a year every year, creating a generation that cannot legally light up and ultimately eliminating smoking. However, that still leaves a significant legacy for people who have smoked in the past or been frequently exposed to it, as well as those who still smoke today.  

Finding The Best Treatment

Whether any particular patient’s lung cancer is caused by smoking themselves or by passive smoking, the key issue (as with any cancer) is to get an early diagnosis and then work out what the best course of treatment is with the help of a lung cancer oncologist. Decisions will depend on a range of factors. How early the diagnosis has taken place will be one of them, as is the distinction between small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Other issues include the age of the patient, whether they have other serious medical conditions and whether they have had cancer before. There are several different options for treatment and sometimes the best approach is to use a combination of more than one of them. These include:
  •       Radiotherapy: This uses X-rays directed at the cancerous cells aimed at preventing them from growing and multiplying. At an early stage, this could kill off the cancer completely, while in late stages it can be used to bring relief as a palliative treatment. It is often used in combination with other treatments.
  •       Chemotherapy: This involves the use of toxic drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is commonly used as the main means of treating SCLC, while it can be used before or after surgery for NSCLC.
  •       Surgery: This is seldom used with SCLC unless it has spread outside the lung, but is often used to remove cancerous tissue in cases of NSCLC. Whether this is right for you may also depend on whether you have other serious health problems, as these could make undergoing surgery unsafe.
  •       Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy: These are used to treat advanced NCLSC, and can also be offered after radiotherapy and chemotherapy when a patient is in remission as a means of preventing the cancer from coming back.
  •       Tumour Ablation: This technique uses heat and light to kill cancer cells. It can also be used to shrink tumours and swellings in cases where these may threaten to block an airway.
Various combinations of these can be used together. For instance, in addition to its role in partnership with surgery, chemotherapy can be combined with radiotherapy to treat both SCLC and NSCLC, or with immunotherapy drugs.  

Deciding What Is Best

What all this means is a lot of decisions have to be made, but also that there are various options. An oncologist will help guide you through this process and advise you on every aspect of the treatments and the associated care that comes with them. In addition, treatments may change as your situation does, for example, if one method is not working as well as hoped or, if it is successful, there may be a switch to a less gruelling treatment - a case in point being the use of immunotherapy after successful treatment to stop the cancer returning.  

The Role Of Diagnostic Developments

Treatments are being improved all the time and new ones are emerging, but there are also new developments in diagnostics, which have helped do more than just demonstrate that someone has lung cancer, but provide further information that can help determine the best treatment options. Thousands of patients suspected of having lung cancer in England are now having blood tests that can show if they display certain genetic variations, which may respond well to particular targeted therapies delivered in pill form. Such therapies may be the best option not just because they are more effective in treating the cancer, but also because they will not produce the sort of side effects chemotherapy or radiotherapy would inflict.  

The Case Of ALK Genes

Biomarkers can include the presence of genes like ALK, which is associated with pre-natal development but usually switches off before birth. However, in a small proportion of cases it turns into a different gene and can fuse with another gene, causing a mutation that can become cancerous. This is responsible for a kind of NSCLC cancer called adenocarcinoma, which affects non-smokers and is more likely to be diagnosed in those aged under 50 than other forms of lung cancer. There are specific immunotherapy drugs that can treat this condition. Only around five per cent of people with an NSCLC have an ALK mutation as the cause, so in this case, only a minority of patients will be able to go down the particular drug treatment path now on offer. But as diagnostics continues to develop, oncologists will increasingly be able to establish with greater accuracy what treatments will be best for each patient. Lung cancer may be a difficult thing to fight against, but the weapons in the oncology armoury are getting increasingly sharper and more powerful, as are the means to target them. It means patients today will have much better prospects than those of even a few years ago.

Feeling any face pain or headaches?

Call us on 0208 713 0459 to book a consultation.