The human respiratory system is consists of airways, lungs, and blood vessels. Lungs remove oxygen from the air and pass it into the blood. Lung cancer is an uncontrolled and rapid growth of lung cells. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) are two types of lung cancer. NSC or non-small cell lung cancer is any epithelial lung cancer other than small cell lung cancer. Lung cancer may obstruct the normal functioning of the lungs.
Metastasis is when cancer cells spread to other organs (bone, liver, brain). The cancer cells in the other organ appear similar to the cells that started growing in the lungs.
What are signs & symptoms of NSCLC?
What are the diagnostic tests for NSCLC?
- Chest x-ray: It helps to check cancer spread in the lungs by identifying the spots on the lungs. If concerning abnormal changes are seen, you’ll need additional tests.
- CT scan: It’s a kind of x-ray that captures detailed images of your insides. CT scans have much higher sensitivity (the smallest amount of cancer that it can find) than X-Rays and can help detect cancer spread earlier.
- PET scan: The doctor puts a small amount of a low-level radioactive substance in the blood, which attaches to the cancer cells. A special camera helps to detect the areas of radioactivity. These scans can help to show the cancer spread. It helps to see the location of cancer spread.
- Bronchoscopy: A procedure in which a thin, lighted, flexible tube is passed into the airways and lungs through the mouth. It is used to detect, and sometimes treat cancer.
- Blood tests: Blood tests help the doctor know more about your overall health.
- Lung biopsy: The doctor removes a small piece of tissue or fluid of the cancerous growth. It is checked for the presence of cancer cells. A biopsy is an accurate way to know the presence of cancer.
How advanced is my NSC lung cancer?
Staging helps to find out the extent of cancer growth and spread through the layers of the lung wall. It identifies the area of cancer spread to the nearby organs or farther away organs. The staging helps to decide the type of treatment best suited for you.
NSC lung cancer has 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 stages. The lower number indicates less spread of cancer. A higher number indicates major cancer spread outside the colon or rectum. Ask your doctor about the cancer stage and what to expect from it.
What are the suitable treatments for me?
Surgery helps to cure or control early-stage cancer and make symptoms better. It is a standard treatment option to curb lung cancer if not spread outside the lungs. The doctor may remove the affected part or whole part of the lung.
If fluid accumulates in the chest, it may cause breathing problems. The doctor will drain out the liquid with the help of a tube and put a drug into the tube to seal the space. It may prevent the fluid from building up again.
The common side effects of NSC lung cancer surgery are cough, lung pain, bronchopleural fistula, and collapsed lungs.
Radiations are high-energy rays. It helps to shrink the tumor and kills cancer cells. Radiation is beneficial after surgery for non-small cell lung cancer. It works alone or with chemotherapy. Radiation may relieve symptoms such as bleeding, trouble swallowing, or other problems when the lung cancer has grown very large or has spread to other organs. The doctor prescribes small doses every day for several weeks.
Most side effects may get better after radiation ends. Ask your doctor about what to expect.
You can administer chemo medicines orally or intravenously. The drugs spread through the body via the blood. The doctor schedules chemotherapy in cycles or rounds. Each cycle is followed by a rest time which helps the body recover from side effects. Most of the time, the doctor recommends two or more chemo medicines. Treatment lasts for a few months. Chemo is beneficial if cancer has spread to other organs.
Targeted therapy is beneficial for lung cancers having certain abnormal proteins. These drugs affect majorly affect cancer cells more than normal cells in the body. Targeted therapy works when other treatments fail.
It enhances your immune system to attack the lung cancer cells. Immunotherapy medicines are given into a vein or taken as pills.
The common side effects are fatigue, cough, nausea, excessive itching (pruritus), skin rash, appetite loss, constipation, joint pain (arthralgia), and diarrhea. Most of these side effects go away after treatment ends. If you have side effects, talk to your cancer care team.
What are the other treatment options?
The other treatment options may or may not be standard medical treatments. These treatments include vitamin supplements, herbal remedies, and diet. Talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
What to expect after treatment?
You will always be worried about cancer coming back or a recurrence. After treatment ends, visit your doctor every few months. Keep all follow-up visits. Your doctors will ask you about the symptoms. A physical examination helps to suggest diagnostic tests to check recurrence.
For the first year, the follow-up visits may be every three months. After the first year, follow-up visits might be every six months, and then at once a year after five years.
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