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Three Emerging Lung Cancer Treatments that are Saving Lives

Cancer treatments are always changing and keep improving. These three emerging lung cancer treatments have improved the quality of patients’ lives immensely.

Radiofrequency Ablation

What is it? Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive treatment that uses heat energy to destroy cancer cells.

Who should ask for it? RFA is a good option for patients who do not want to go through conventional surgery or who are not healthy enough for surgery, though it is not meant to replace surgery in all patients.  It is only recommended for tumors of a certain size.

Pros: Because RFA is minimally invasive, there is no large incision on the skin, only a small nick from the needle. This means less recovery time is required with RFA than with conventional surgery. RFA does a good job of destroying the most central part of the tumor—the area that doesn’t always respond to radiotherapy.

Cons: RFA may require exposure to x-rays. Pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung, can be produced due to the procedure and fluid may collect in the space between the lung and its membrane. Rare complications include severe pain after treatment and significant bleeding into the lung

Genetic Testing

What is it? Genetic testing is when lung cancer tumors are tested for various genetic mutations. This helps doctors understand what sort of genetic flaws are responsible for the cancer so they can choose treatments for that specific flaw. These treatments are called targeted therapies.

Who should ask for it? People who have already been diagnosed with cancer.

Pros: Targeted therapies work by honing in on the molecular processes that allow cancer cells to grow and spread. They may work better than chemotherapy and have fewer side effects because chemo attacks normal cells in addition to cancer cells.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association shows that targeted therapy might extend the lives of lung cancer patients by longer than one year. Targeted therapies come in pill form, so patients can just take a pill rather than go to the hospital for the regular intravenous treatments associated with chemotherapy.

Cons: Targeted therapies do not cure cancer and more research and clinical trials are required to determine if this treatment method improves survival.

Clinical Trials

What is it? A research study that involves people. Many of the cancer treatments used today are the result of clinical trials.

Who should ask for it? Cancer clinical trials are available for patients with all stages of cancer, not just those who have advanced cancers that are not responding to treatment.

Pros: Participants may be able to receive new treatments before they are widely available to the public. They will also get expert medical care at high quality health facilities and be able to help others by contributing to medical research.

Cons: Treatments may not work or have side effects. Once the trial is over, the treatments may not be readily available.

For more information about lung cancer treatments, tune in to Abington Health’s Health Chat, Screening for Lung Cancer and Options for Treatment, with thoratic surgeon Colleen B. Gaughan, MD and medical oncologist Mark L. Sundermeyer, MD. The chat is on Wednesday, January 21 from 6-7 p.m. Learn more here.