Lung cancer forms in the lung tissues, most often in the cells that line air passages. These cells grow and multiply uncontrollably, usually due to exposure to toxins such as tobacco, smoke, asbestos, and radiation.
If your doctor suspects you have lung cancer, they will do a diagnostic computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan gives the Doctor a detailed 3D scan.
If they find that there might be cancer, they may do a positron emission tomography (PET) scan that can detect cancer that the CT scan could not by using radioactive sugar. Cancer cells will use up the sugar much faster than our normal body cells.
If the PET scan confirms what the CT scan shows, then the final step to confirming you have cancer is taking some tissue from the cancerous areas to test. This is called a biopsy.
Once they have all the information, they will determine your cancer stage. The stage of cancer will help your doctor decide how to treat you. Staging is done on a numerical scale of 1-4. The higher the number, the more it has grown.
Faster growing and treated slightly differently than non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). You will still do the same scans, but with SCLC, they may also get a scan of your brain because SCLC is fast-growing cancer and can spread to the brain.
For early-stage SCLC, chemoradiation is used just like NSCLC. The preferred agents are carboplatin, etoposide, atezolizumab, and durvalumab. Generally, your therapy will have carboplatin and etoposide with either atezolizumab or durvalumab.
The most common cause of lung cancer is smoking. Other common causes can include exposure to secondhand smoke, asbestos, family history, other lung diseases, and a history of infections such as tuberculosis.
After completing your therapy, you will follow up with your doctor every 3-6 months for the first 2-3 years. They may repeat your scans and blood work to ensure that the cancer is not returning or growing.
Your doctor might want to see you sooner if they think it is medically necessary.
Things to think about:
- Always get a second opinion. Healthcare professionals are humans and can see things differently.
- A biopsy is a gold standard for diagnosing solid tumor cancers. You should not just start therapy without having one.
- If you are feeling ill, having nausea, or anything out of the ordinary during your treatment, let your treatment team know! They might be able to help you. Remember, they are trying to help you, not make you miserable.
- The best way to fight cancer is to catch it early. So, see your doctor yearly for a physical and screen early, especially if you have risk factors. The slight inconvenience is worth it!