Exercise and Wellness Health Care

Early-Stage Treatment for Lung Cancer Can Be Lifesaving

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In the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. And while it’s important to take steps to prevent lung cancer — like quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke — early diagnosis should also be a goal. 

Lung cancer patients have several treatment options that offer hope for recovery. In fact, a recent study published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery found that the number of patients who receive treatment and survive early-stage lung cancer has increased in recent years.

If you’re concerned about seeking out a diagnosis or treatment today, please know that AdventHealth is taking extraordinary measures to protect your health and safety. These measures include:

  • Enforcing a strict visitor’s policy

  • Practicing social distancing by keeping patients at least six feet apart

  • Taking temperatures of everyone who enters our facilities

  • Treating patients with COVID-19 symptoms in separate areas

  • Wearing protective masks

Lung Cancer vs Early-Stage Lung Cancer

Being told you have early-stage lung cancer can feel both overwhelming and frightening. The good news is that advances are being made every day in lung cancer treatments, with early-stage treatments seeing the best outcomes. 

So, what does it mean to have early-stage lung cancer and which stages are considered early? Generally speaking, the differences often come down to which type of lung cancer you have and whether or not surgery is an option. 

Stages of Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, making up around 85% of cases. Stages that are considered operable (early-stage lung cancers) include:

  • Stage 0

  • Stage I

  • Stage II

  • Stage IIIA

Small cell lung cancer is the second-most common type of lung cancer. Surgery is not commonly considered for these cancers, which fall into one of two categories:

  • Limited stage

  • Extensive stage

Lung Cancer Symptoms

When in its earlier stages, lung cancer often doesn’t present with easily recognizable symptoms. Typically, it’s found in routine screenings or scans done for unrelated reasons. However, when there are symptoms present, they may include:

  • Chronic cough

  • Coughing up blood

  • Generally feeling unwell

  • Shortness of breath

Because some symptoms are similar to those of coronavirus, it’s important to talk to your doctor before getting tested.

How is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?

Lung cancer diagnosis varies from person to person, and your medical team chooses tests based on several factors including:

  • Findings from a physical exam

  • Medical history

  • Symptoms present

Your doctor may order imaging exams including CT, PET or bone scans. These scans take pictures of the inside of your body, allowing the doctor to identify lung cancer, see whether cancer has spread, track treatment progress or monitor whether cancer has returned. 

If your doctor sees something on the scan that should be investigated further, there are several procedures they may order to study tissue or fluid around the lungs, including several types of biopsies. These procedures allow the doctor to remove cells from the body and study them under a microscope to determine whether they’re cancerous.

Improved Treatment Options

The increase in lung cancer survival is linked to the fact that better treatment options are more easily available today:

  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy allows doctors to locate and treat tumors more precisely while avoiding surrounding healthy tissue.

  • Surgical procedures are less invasive than they used to be.

  • Radiation therapy has improved.

If you’ve been diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, don’t hesitate to start a conversation about treatment. Talk to your doctor about the options that may be best for you, including:

  • Chemotherapy:  Special medicines that help shrink or kill the cancer

  • Radiation therapy:  High-energy rays that can eliminate the cancer

  • Surgery:  An operation to remove cancer tissue

  • Targeted therapy:  Drugs (either pills or medicine administered in your veins) that can block the growth and progress of cancer cells

Certain lung cancer treatments can compromise the immune system, which can make you more prone to illnesses like COVID-19. It’s important to discuss treatment options with your medical team. But don’t worry: the experts at AdventHealth can work with you to find the right treatment plan to protect you before, during and after your care.

Early Intervention is Key: Get Care Now

It’s essential to maintain a relationship with a primary care doctor you trust. When you see a doctor regularly and stay up to date on age-appropriate screenings, you are much more likely to catch potential problems before they progress. If you don’t already have a primary care physician, you can use our convenient  online physician finder  to find one near you.  

Learn more about lung cancer screening and treatment at AdventHealth today.

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