Surgery is deemed the gold standard for potential cure. A surgical procedure can either be a wedge resection (removal of part of the lung), a lobectomy (removal of entire lobe) or a pnemonectomy (removal of entire lung) most often followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation. This surgery can either be via the “traditional method” or where feasible, VAT (video assisted thoracic surgery) which in some cases, can offer a safer, less invasive alternative.
Radiation – research continues to determine feasibility and effectiveness of radiation in treatment of lung tumors. Radiation can be used to shrink a tumor prior to surgery. Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), may be an alternative, non-surgical treatment for patients with small, early stage lung cancer. RFA is performed by an interventional radiologist. Guided primarily by CT scanning, a small needle electrode is inserted through the skin directly into the tumor tissue. Radiofrequency energy consisting of an alternating electrical current in the frequency of radio waves is passed through the electrode. The needle electrode heats up, killing nearby cancer cells. RFA is a relatively quick procedure which usually does not require general anesthesia.
Chemotherapy is the administration of anti-cancer drugs intravenously. For NSCLC, first line therapy will often consist of two drugs, one of which is usually platinum based (cisplatin or carboplatin). Second and third line treatments include docetaxel, and pemetrexed. As researchers have learned more about the specific molecular changes responsible for the abnormal growth and spread of cancer cells, they have been able to develop new drugs that “target” those cells. For lung cancer those drugs include bevacizumab and erlobtinib.