Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer
Written by: Dr. Heinzerling
Lung cancer typically occurs in the air passages or areas of air exchange in the lungs. It is typically associated with smoking, but many patients that have lung cancer have never smoked. There are two general types of lung cancers: “small cell” lung cancer, which is almost always associated with smoking, and “non-small cell” lung cancer, which is more common. Staging of lung cancer involves evaluation of the size of the tumor in the lung and whether there has been spread to lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body. Treatment depends on the stage of the disease, but may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these. Earlier stage disease that has not spread to lymph nodes, surgery or focused radiation are the primary options for treatment. When spread has occurred to the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest (mediastinum), typically the treatment involves radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy. Regardless of the stage, treatment of lung cancer requires a team approach with involvement of radiation oncology, medical oncology, and a thoracic surgeon. Other support including help for patients to stop smoking is important to help patients through treatment of their disease.
The physicians with Southeast Radiation Oncology have a true team effort in the approach to treating lung cancer. This includes strong relationships with surgeons and medical oncologists, but also unique expertise in utilizing new technologies such as SBRT, IMRT, and image guided radiation. Many of our physicians have been involved in national research specific to lung cancer, including clinical trials that give our physicians the ability to offer superior care to these patients.