Lung Cancer Treatment
With their depth and range of expertise, our specialists apply a wide array of state-of-the-art techniques to cure patients by removing and killing cancerous tissue. Our surgeons also use the most advanced techniques to relieve the symptoms of patients with advanced disease so they may improve their quality of life.
Lung resection is the surgical removal of all or part of the lung. The lung has three parts (called lobes) on the right side; and two on the left. Often, an operation for lung cancer involves removing part or all of a lobe.
Thoracic surgeons at BMC offer patients a variety of minimally invasive and robotic surgical procedures to treat lung cancer. The use of these state-of-the-art surgical techniques results in fewer side effects than traditional methods. Following are the principle surgical options used to treat lung cancer.
Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomy
The BMC thoracic surgery team was the first group of surgeons in New England with the expertise and technology to perform lung resections using video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). This minimally invasive alternative to open chest surgery greatly reduces patient’s pain, recovery time and risk for infection.
When using VATS, the physician makes tiny incisions in the patient’s chest and inserts a thorascope (a fiber-optic camera) as well as surgical instruments. As the physician turns the thorascope, its views are displayed on a video monitor to guide surgery. The surgeon has no need to stress or cut ribs, because all movements are performed at the tip of the instrument, at the point of contact with the cancerous tissue.
Further enhancing the precision of this process, BMC’s VATS technology is also unique in its use of multiple robot-powered cameras that yield 3-D views inside the chest.
Used alone or in combination with other treatments, chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. These medications are given orally in a pill form or intravenously through a needle or catheter.
Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that circulates through your entire body. The drugs enter the bloodstream and kill abnormal cells. These powerful agents affect rapidly reproducing cancer cells but can also affect normal, fast-growing cells as well. Healthy cells usually repair themselves after chemotherapy; but during treatment, you may have a number of side effects. Some patients may experience side effects such as: hair loss; fatigue; increased risk of bleeding, bruising, low blood count, infection; and nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting. Your doctor will prescribe medications that can relieve many of these effects.
The type, stage, and location of your cancer as well as your overall health will determine the design of your chemotherapy treatment as well as its frequency—which may vary from daily to once a month.
What to expect
While you undergo your treatment and after you conclude it, your care team will use tests and imaging to track the results.
Radiation (or radiotherapy) uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells. Administered by a radiation oncologist, the high-energy particles break a portion of the DNA within a cancer cell and prevent it from reproducing itself.
Radiation may be applied alone or in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. In some cases, radiation is given before surgery to reduce the size of tumors. Or it may follow surgery to purge any remaining cancer cells. Some patients may receive dual courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy at the same time.
At BMC, the radiotherapy techniques we use to treat lung cancer include:
The best treatment choice for you will depend on the type of cancer you have and the extent and location of the disease. Your radiation oncologist will discuss your treatment options with you.
External Beam Radiotherapy (EBRT)
Although the radiation is precisely targeted, it can damage normal tissue near cancerous cells. Your radiation oncologist reduces this risk by administering a series of small doses that allow nearby normal tissue time to heal during treatment. A typical course of external radiation therapy may schedule treatments five days a week over five to eight weeks.
What to expect
CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System
This internal form of radiotherapy is delivered during a surgical procedure to remove cancerous tissue. When the resection is complete, the surgeon, in collaboration with the radiation oncologist implants seed-like radioactive pellets near the remaining portion of the lung to prevent new growth of cancer cells. The pellets remain in place for the rest of the patient’s life, although their level of radiation decreases over time.
Integrative medicine practices have been shown to reduce cancer-related symptoms such as pain, anxiety, nausea and fatigue. The Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Care Disparities in the Department of Family Medicine at BMC combines conventional medical treatments with evidence-based complementary therapies. These treatments include free therapeutic massage to decrease pre-operative anxiety and post-operative pain in cancer patients undergoing surgical procedures and free acupuncture administered by a licensed acupuncturist. We also offer consultations that focus on stress management, nutrition and coordination of complementary therapies.
Periodic follow-up care is very important after treatment for lung cancer to make sure that the patient remains free of tumors. At BMC, your treatment plan will include services that go well beyond the procedures to remove the cancer. Your plan will include
Management of your care continues over the weeks, months and years following your treatment. And for out-of-town patients, this care includes collaboration with your local health care providers for follow up, using our nationwide network of health care institutions.