What is a Lung Cancer Diagnosis and what are your treatment options

Dr. Sunil Verma, MD, MSEd, FRCPC, Oncologist, discusses lung cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

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Dr. Sunil Verma, MD, MSEd, FRCPC, Oncologist, discusses lung cancer symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.
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Lung cancer is one of the most devious forms of cancer that we have. It is the leading cause of cancer-related death both in men and in women globally, so we really need to better understand lung cancer in order to better treat it.

And lung cancer has come a far way from even a decade ago. What used to be classified as just two different types of cancer, that is, small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, we’re now better able to understand what is driving that cancer so that we can better target it.

It is still incurable with the cancer is metastasized, or when it’s advanced, which we see in about half of our patients with advanced lung cancer or where the cancer has already spread. And when the cancer is spread we cannot cure it. However, we can offer patients effective treatment that can help control this cancer.

And our understanding of the biology of lung cancer is really very helpful to try and understand if you can offer them targeted treatment that specifically target the lung cancer and, thereby, spare the normal, healthy tissues.

So when we have patients who have advanced lung cancer, or metastatic lung cancer, the tools that we have in our arsenal include chemotherapy, include radiation, include surgery sometimes, but also now include this new generations of targeted drugs which can specifically target lunch cancer.

But the remaining 40 to 50 percent of our patients will have cancer within the early stage setting. And in early stage lung cancer, especially non-small cell lung cancer, surgery is a important pillar – an important first approach.

So usually patients are assessed by our surgeons to see whether they’re candidates for surgery, and after surgery some of those patients may be candidates for chemotherapy, what we call adjuvant chemotherapy.

So that is the general approach for patients who have stage 1 or stage 2 lung cancer. Patients who have stage 3 lung cancer, we generally consider chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and for some patients, surgery is an alternate option.

So we really encourage our patients to consider and educate themselves about the different treatment options, and discuss with their specialist what is the right treatment for their disease.

So lung cancer, generally when it’s associated with very non-specific symptoms, such as cough, shortness of breath, sometimes blood in the sputum, and sometimes related to the spread of the cancer. So patients may have pain, may have headaches, may also have trouble walking because the cancer is spread to other areas.

So the symptoms are non-specific, but what we do encourage our patients to consider, if they have a change in their cough, or if they have a change in their shortness of breath, or if they have a new symptom that is persistent – that is constant, that is not getting better – and lasting more than four weeks, they definitely need to inform their family care provider or their specialist to investigate this further.

Presenter: Dr. Sunil Verma, Oncologist, Calgary, ON

Local Practitioners: Oncologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.