Lung Cancer

Quitting Smoking

If you quit smoking, the health benefits begin immediately.

  • For patients with head and neck cancer, quitting smoking reduces the risks of infections and developing other cancers.
  • To learn how to quit, ask your doctor or visit www.smokefree.gov.

Internal Radiation Therapy

Also called brachytherapy, internal radiation therapy involves surgically implanting radioactive material into a tumor or surrounding tissue. For head and neck cancers, brachytherapy is often used in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy, but may be used alone.

  • During low-dose-rate brachytherapy, your radiation oncologist implants thin, hollow, plastic tubes in and around a tumor.
  • These tubes are loaded with tiny radioactive seeds that remain in place for one or several days to kill the cancer. The seeds and the tubes are then removed. Sometimes, tiny radioactive seeds are implanted directly into the tumor and remain permanently.
  • For high-dose-rate brachytherapy, your doctor implants hollow tubes in and around the tumor site.
  • After these tubes are implanted, they are then connected to a special brachytherapy machine that houses a high activity radioactive source. According to your doctor's specifications, the seed is automatically delivered from the machine and into the tubes, delivering localized radiation over several minutes to kill the cancer.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy is a series of outpatient treatments to accurately deliver radiation to the cancer cells. Radiation therapy has been proven to be very successful at treating and curing Hodgkins lymphoma.

  • Radiation oncologists deliver external beam radiation therapy to the lymphoma from a machine called a linear accelerator.
  • Each treatment is painless and is similar to getting an X-ray. Treatments last less than 30 minutes each, every day except for Saturday and Sunday, for three to four weeks.
  • Involved field radiation is when your doctor delivers radiation only to the parts of your body known to have cancer. It is often combined with chemotherapy. Radiation above the diaphragm to the neck, chest and/or underarms is called mantle field radiation. Treatment below the diaphragm to the abdomen, spleen and/or pelvis is called inverted-Y field radiation.
  • Your radiation oncologist may deliver radiation to all the lymph nodes in the body to destroy cancer cells that may have spread to other lymph nodes. This is called total nodal irradiation.
  • Your radiation oncologist may also deliver radiation to the entire body. This is called total body irradiation. It is often done before chemotherapy and a stem cell or bone marrow transplant to eliminate any remaining cancer cells and create space for the new stem cells.

Potential Side Effects

The side effects you may experience will depend on the part of the body being treated, the dose of radiation given and if you also receive chemotherapy. Ask your doctor before treatment begins about possible side effects, and how best to manage them.

  • You may experience very few or no side effects and can continue your normal routine during treatment.
  • You may experience mild skin irritation, hair loss, sore throat, upset stomach, loose bowel movements, nausea and/or fatigue. Most side effects will go away after treatment ends.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you experience any discomfort. They may be able to prescribe medication or change your diet to help.
  • Hodgkins lymphoma is often curable, allowing many people with the disease to live long lives after treatment. In some very rare cases, the treatments that cured the cancer may lead to significant after effects. Talk to your doctor about the risks of your treatment.

Facts About Lung Cancer

  • According to the American Cancer Society, this year nearly 175,000 Americans will learn they have lung cancer.
  • The one-year survival rate for lung cancer has increased from 34 percent in 1975 to 42 percent in 1998.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

Smoking greatly increases your chances of developing lung cancer.

  • Other risk factors include exposure to substances like second-hand smoke, arsenic, some organic chemicals, radon, asbestos, air pollution and tuberculosis.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Some signs and symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Persistent cough, coughing blood or shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.
  • Recurring pneumonia or bronchitis.
  • Swelling of the neck and face.
  • Unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite or fatigue.

Diagnosing Lung Cancer

  • A chest X-ray will often reveal a tumor and where it is located. Other tests, such as CT scans and PET scans, can provide more detailed information.
  • To be certain if you have lung cancer, tissue from your lung will be removed and analyzed. This is called a biopsy.
  • The biopsy may be done during a bronchoscopy, a test where a flexible tube with a light is inserted into your nose or mouth to look at the airways of the lungs.
  • A biopsy may also be done with a needle inserted through the skin directly into the tumor under CT guidance.

Types of Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer are the two main types of lung cancer.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. It often grows and spreads less rapidly than small cell lung cancer. There are three types of non-small cell lung cancer — squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
  • Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. It grows more rapidly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.
  • Lung cancer usually begins in one lung. If left untreated, it can spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the chest, including the other lung. Lung cancer can also metastasize (or spread) throughout the body to the bones, brain, liver or other organs.

Treatment for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer treatment depends on several factors, including the type and size of the cancer, its location and your overall health. Typically, several different treatments and combinations of treatments will be used to combat lung cancer. During treatment, a team of doctors may be involved in your care, including a radiation oncologist, a medical oncologist and a surgeon.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer may be treated first with surgery. Your doctor may also suggest radiation therapy or chemotherapy either alone or in combination.
  • Small cell lung cancer is often treated with chemotherapy and radiation therapy either at the same time or one right after the other.