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Other Treatments for Lung Cancer

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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The following treatments may be used to help alleviate the symptoms of lung cancer:

Photodynamic Therapy

In photodynamic therapy (PDT), photosensitizers, or light-sensitive molecules, are injected into the bloodstream and absorbed by cells throughout the body. These agents remain in cancer cells longer than in normal cells. When the cancer cells are exposed to laser light, the photosensitizers are activated and cause cell damage and death.

Effectiveness

Photodynamic therapy is often used to decrease symptoms, rather than to cure cancer. It may help control bleeding or breathing problems. This technique can be very effective but it is not considered a standard option like surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. Photodynamic therapy is only offered at some medical centers around the country and is best used when there is not much cancer to be killed—the chemical is absorbed only a short distance into the tumor, so a big tumor will not be affected by this method.

Side Effects

Photodynamic therapy will make your skin and eyes more sensitive than normal to light for at least six weeks. Avoid the sun, and if you must go outside, wear sunglasses and protective clothing. When indoors, avoid bright indoor lighting.

YAG Laser

The YAG laser is a special light source that can be used by the doctor (usually a pulmonologist or surgeon) to core out an area where cancer is located and is blocking your airway. The YAG laser may be appropriate when there is a tumor in the airway preventing air from passing through, and radiation or surgery cannot be done.

Effectiveness

This procedure is used to alleviate symptoms; it does not cure lung cancer.

Side Effects

The following side effects may occur:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Bleeding to death
  • Perforating the airway
  • Collapsing of the lung
  • Air embolism (air entering the circulatory system)

Stent Placement

Stents are mesh devices that keep an airway open. The doctor will insert the stent into your airway through a bronchoscope and then open it up. The stent is designed to hold the airway open from the inside, when the tumor is otherwise trying to close it down. The stent only serves as a meshwork lattice and cannot prevent the tumor from ultimately growing through.

Effectiveness

This procedure is used to alleviate symptoms; it is not curative. It is usually used as a temporary solution, and other treatments may be necessary along with it, such as radiation therapy .

Side Effects

Possible complications of bronchoscopy include:

  • Bleeding at the biopsy site
  • Collapsed lung
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Infection
  • Sore and swollen throat

Sources:

American Cancer Society

American Lung Association

National Cancer Institute

Sheski FD, Mathur PN. Endoscopic treatment of early-stage lung cancer. Cancer Control . 2000;7:35-44.



Last reviewed February 2003 by Jondavid Pollock, MD, PhD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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