6 things to know about metastatic NSCLC treatments according to cancer stage

Metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) spreads from other forms of cancer. For instance, if a person has breast cancer or prostatic cancer, the cancerous cells may go into the bloodstream or the lymph system and affect the lungs, causing metastatic NSCLC.

This form of cancer is life threatening and is quite difficult to diagnose in the initial stages. However, once detected, metastatic NSCLC treatments can be started depending on the stage of cancer. Here are the six stages of metastatic NSCLC and the metastatic NSCLC treatment plans that are implemented at each stage:

  • Stage 0: At this stage of metastatic NSCLC, the cancerous cells have reached only till the lining layer of airways. At this stage, cancer has not spread to the lung tissues and other areas of the lungs. Surgery is used to remove the affected areas. Other metastatic NSCLC treatments at this stage include photodynamic therapy (PDT), laser therapy, or brachytherapy (internal radiation).
  • Stage I: At this stage, the only metastatic NSCLC treatment is undergoing surgery. Using surgery, a small piece or the lobe of the affected lung is removed. If there are chances of cancer coming back, surgery can be followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In case, surgery is difficult, stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can be used to remove the tumor. Another option of metastatic NSCLC treatment is radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which is used for a tumor that is small in size and is present in the outer part of the affected lung.
  • Stage II: At this stage of metastatic NSCLC, surgery such as lobectomy, pneumonectomy or sleeve resection is used to remove the cancerous tissues and in some cases, the entire lung. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is used to shrink the cancerous cells before surgery. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is also done after surgery to remove cancer cells that might be left behind.
  • Stage IIIA: At this stage, cancer affects the lymph nodes as well. One plan of treatment is to start with chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy. This can be followed by surgery if the patient’s overall health can withstand this invasive treatment. Another treatment plan is t start with surgery followed by chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Stage IIIB: In this stage, cancer spreads to the areas near the lungs and in the neck as well. Surgery is not an option since the extent of cancerous cells is wide. If the patient is in good health, treatment includes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Otherwise, just radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Participating in clinical trials is recommended at this stage.
  • Stage IV: It becomes quite difficult to treat cancer at this stage. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, laser therapy, photodynamic therapy, or targeted therapy can be used to alleviate the symptoms.
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