Lung cancer can be categorised into two main types;
- Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)- is less common and makes up 10-15% of all lung cancers. This is an aggressive cancer that grows rapidly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body.
- Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)- these are a group of cancers which together form the majority of all lung cancers (80-85%) and are less aggressive when compared to Small Cell Lung Cancers. The three main types are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma.
Some of the common risk factors for lung cancer include:
- Smoking (including exposure to 'second hand' smoke)
- Exposure to asbestos
- Symptoms of lung cancer can mimic other conditions such as chest infections and these include:
- New dry cough or change in a chronic cough
- Chest pain
- Coughing or spitting blood
- Repeated bouts of chest infections or bronchitis
- Treatment approaches for the two major groups of lung cancer are significantly different.
- SCLC- for early and locally advanced stages a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is the standard treatment option. Surgery is rarely used for this type of cancer.
- NSCLC- surgery is the primary treatment in early stages. Radiation therapy may be used in some high-risk patients post-operatively. In medically unfit early stage patients radiation therapy can be used an alternative curative treatment. In locally advanced stages a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is the standard treatment option.
- Radiation therapy is also often used to palliate symptoms in patients with advanced lung cancers.
External Beam Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer
Modern radiation therapy machines (linacs) can deliver a high dose of radiation, precisely targeting the tumour to achieve high rates of cancer control for early stage lung cancer. For certain patients, the use of advanced treatment techniques such as Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) provides even greater disease control by allowing maximum radiation to be deposited within the tumour while minimizing radiation passing through normal organs such as normal lung, oesophagus, heart and spinal cord. External beam radiation is given every day (10-15 minutes) over a course of 6 weeks (curative) or 1-2 weeks (palliative). SABR treatment is given as 3-5 doses over a two-week period.
External beam radiation therapy services for lung cancer are available at all Genesis CancerCare Queensland centres.
For Cancer support, education and resources head to our Quick links page.