More than 221,000 new cases of lung cancer were estimated to develop in 2015 in the United States, making it the second most common cancer. The estimated 158,000 deaths from lung cancer makes it the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in this country.
Part of the problem is that symptoms do not manifest during early stages of lung cancer. But as cancer cells grow, there are some common symptoms that might occur, including:
- weight loss without explanation
- coughing up blood
- persistent cough that gets worse
- constant chest pain
- difficulty breathing, such as shortness of breath
- frequent lung infections
- ongoing fatigue
Of course, these symptoms can be related to other conditions and may not be related to cancer, but anyone with symptoms should see a doctor to rule out cancer as soon as possible. A doctor may check for cancer by performing a physical exam to listen to breathing and feel for swollen lymph nodes, or order a chest x-ray or CT scan.
The only way to be sure if lung cancer is present is to collect samples of lung cells. This can be done by a taking a sample of fluid coughed up from the lungs (sputum sample), removal of fluid from the chest (thoracentesis), passing a lighted tube into the lungs and taking a sample of tissue (bronchoscopy).
After making a diagnosis and determining the stage, or extent, of cancer, your doctor will suggest appropriate treatment options. The goal of treatment is to eliminate the cancer and prevent it from spreading.
Different types of treatment are available to patients with non-small cell lung cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination. Fortunately, patients in the Panama City area have access to many state-of-the-art treatments that other similar sized communities might have to travel a great distance to find.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. External radiation is the most common type of radiation for lung cancer. Treatments are usually 5 days a week for several weeks. You may discuss any potential side effects, which primarily depend on the type of radiation and dose, with your physician.
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs can be given through a vein or taken by mouth. Chemotherapy is given in cycles with a rest period after each treatment cycle. Side effects — which range from fatigue, hair loss, and diarrhea to infection, nausea and vomiting — depend mainly on which drugs are given and how much. Additionally, Bay Medical provides in-patient medical oncology care if hospitalization is required.
During lung cancer surgery, your physician will remove either a piece of the lung containing the tumor and some healthy tissue around it; a section of the lung containing the tumor (lobectomy); part of the airway leading to the lung; or, the entire lung, if the cancer has spread.
This procedure is traditionally performed through a long incision called a thoracotomy. Your surgeon may also spread the ribs to access the lung.
Following these procedures, your remaining lung tissue will still be functional. However, you will have less lung capacity overall.
A Less Invasive Surgical Procedure
If your doctor recommends surgery to treat lung cancer, you may be a candidate for a safe, effective and minimally invasive procedure available at Bay Medical called da Vinci Surgery. Using the most advanced technology available, da Vinci provides your surgeon with superior vision, precision and control for greater and improved access inside the chest cavity.
Because da Vinci Surgery is performed through tiny incisions, spreading your ribs to access the lung is avoided. da Vinci is minimally invasive, unlike thoracotomy – traditional lung surgery – which requires a long incision, and often a long recovery.
Potential benefits of a da Vinci Lobectomy include:
- Low cancer recurrence in advanced disease
- Minimal pain
- Low blood loss
- Few complications
- Fast return of pulmonary function
- Short hospital stay and fast recovery
As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed, as surgery is patient-and procedure-specific.
Our multidisciplinary team provides physical and psychological care and support for patients and their families.
For a list of our CV surgeons click here.
Dr. Greg England discusses minimally invasive lung surgery (lobectomy).