Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer
The treatment of lung cancer starts with detailed staging scans, to know the stage and location of the cancer. A PET/CT scan may be used to find all the active cancer, then Tomotherapy to target it. Tomotherapy is an advanced and targeted form of radiation therapy. Amifostine, a radioprotectant drug, may be added to reduce the damage that radiation can cause to healthy lung tissue.
Brachytherapy is added if the tumor is visibly protruding into the major airways on bronchoscopy. Chemotherapy helps enhance the power of the radiation, and follow-up chemotherapy may kill any renegade cancer cells which have escaped into the rest of the body. Proper nutrition is also important during lung cancer radiation therapy.
CTCA offers HDR lung brachytherapy treatments. Lung brachytherapy can be used almost any time a tumor can be seen in an airway on bronchoscopy. During bronchoscopy, a thin plastic tube is placed down the nose, and down into the airways of the lung, into the diseased bronchus. The bronchoscope is then removed, but the thin tube will stay comfortably in place for about 45 minutes. During this time, a brachytherapy treatment will be given through the segment of the tube which is lying against the cancer. This treats the cancer from the inside-out.
Lung brachytherapy can be used in the following situations:
- To help open an almost-blocked lung airway
- To help stop bleeding
- To retreat a previously irradiated lung cancer
- To use in addition to regular external beam irradiation to increase the radiation dose
- To use alone for the treatment of in-situ (very early) lung cancers
Other Lung Cancer Treatments at CTCA
In addition to brachytherapy, CTCA has a comprehensive lung cancer treatment center led by expert pulmonologists. The LIFE lung bronchoscopy program offers a special blue light bronchoscope which enables doctors to find very early cancers. In addition, CTCA offers photodynamic therapy, which uses a laser to help open up blocked lung airways and treat early tumors.
LIFE Lung Bronchoscopy
This is a special blue light bronchoscope which can see cancerous changes in the lung airways earlier than they would appear with a normal bronchoscope. This allows cancer to be detected earlier in the screening process, and it is also an excellent way to monitor for lung cancer recurrences after previous treatment.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Like brachytherapy, PDT can be used to help open up a blocked airway, and can used for retreating cancers and also for treating very early (in-situ) lung cancers. PDT involves injecting a photoporphyrin substance in the blood, which makes tumors respond to the red laser light. The laser is shone on the tumor during a bronchoscopy procedure, and the exposed tumor will die and slough off.
Surgery is a common treatment option for stages I and II lung cancers. It can also be used in selected stage III or rarely stage IV lung cancers in conjunction with other therapies.
Tomotherapy, 3D conformal radiation therapy, and occasionally intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT ) may be used to treat lung tumors with high dosages, while limiting the amount of radiation which the healthy lung receives.