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The Challenges of Lung Cancer Treatment
Lung cancer usually begins in the cells lining the bronchi, and often grows for a long time without producing symptoms. In time, the lung cancer may invade the wall of the bronchus, blood vessels, the esophagus, or nerves.
Lung cancer can be detected with chest X-rays, computerized chest tomography (CT), or positron emission tomography (PET). A biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis.
Once lung cancer is diagnosed, local techniques are generally used in the very earliest stage of lung cancer treatment. If the lung cancer is operable, surgery is the choice for local therapy, but combined therapy – including surgery and radiation including proton therapy for lung cancer – is often recommended for more advanced disease. If the disease is not operable, then radiation therapy, including proton therapy, is used.
The Advantages of Proton Therapy for Lung Cancer Treatment
When treating lung cancer with traditional radiation, it can be difficult to deliver an effective dose without risking damage to healthy tissue. By using proton therapy for lung cancer treatment, physicians may be able to deliver highly effective and very precise doses of protons to the exact location of the lung cancer.
Proton therapy for lung cancer now appears to be a reasonable treatment for patients whose cancer is limited to the chest. Trials performed at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Center and other centers demonstrate that proton therapy offers reduced normal lung and bone marrow exposure when compared with conventional photon (X-ray) therapy.
Reducing lung exposure is important because it allows oncologists to increase the radiation dose delivered to the sites of lung cancer without increasing the risk of lung injury. Reducing bone marrow exposure may reduce treatment-related fatigue and, when necessary, allow for the delivery of more intensive chemotherapy during or after proton therapy.
Currently, the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute offers proton therapy for three groups of lung cancer patients:
Patients with inoperable non-small cell lung cancer that has not spread outside of the chest.
Patients with limited cancers who may be surgically curable but who are not able to tolerate lung cancer surgery.
Patients with cancer recurrence in the chest after surgery whose cancer has not spread outside of the chest.
The University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute is currently unable to offer proton therapy for lung cancer that has spread to the bone, brain or liver.
In order to evaluate a patient for possible proton therapy at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute, the patient must provide:
Proton therapy at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute is offered as part of a multidisciplinary program involving input from medical oncologists, pathologists, pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, and diagnostic radiologists. Patients are ideally seen in our clinic on a Monday or Tuesday. Cases are usually discussed at a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology meeting on Thursday morning where treatment recommendations are made. All physicians at the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute and Shands Jacksonville are University of Florida faculty.
To learn more about proton therapy for lung cancer, or to find out if you are a candidate for proton therapy, contact the University of Florida Proton Therapy Institute today.