Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, this year nearly 175,000 Americans will learn they have lung cancer.
The primary risk factor for lung cancer is smoking which accounts for more than 85% of all lung cancer related deaths. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day as well as the number of years spent smoking. Exposed non-smokers have an increased relative risk of developing lung cancer as well. There is a 20 to 30 percent increased risk for lung cancer associated with living with a smoker. Other risk factors include exposure to substances like radon gas, asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chromium nickel organic arsenic compounds, recurrent lung inflammation, and lung scarring secondary to tuberculosis.
Lung cancer treatment planning is very complex. A team of cancer care doctors may be involved in the decision making process, including a radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and a surgeon. The appropriate cancer treatment depends on several factors including the type and size of the cancer, its location, your overall health, and performance status. Often, several different treatments and combination of treatments will be used to combat lung cancer. The treatment options for lung cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy uses high energy rays (such as x-rays) to kill or shrink cancer cells. Radiation therapy works by damaging the ability of the cancer cells to multiply and divide. When the cells die, the body naturally eliminates them. High energy rays used to kill the cancer cells are usually delivered by a machine outside the body called a linear accelerator. IMRT may also be used to treat your tumor, a sophisticated form of 3D treatment planning that modifies the radiation by varying the intensity of each radiation beam. This technique allows the precise adjustment of radiation doses to the tissue within the target area, possibly allowing a higher radiation dose to the tumor, and keeping more radiation away from nearby normal tissues.
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