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Lung Cancer - A New Hope

Lung Cancer - A New Hope

November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month. And while lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, there are many signs of hope. Lung cancer treatments have changed dramatically in recent years, with new innovations, increased options and significantly higher survival rates.

Radiotherapy – or radiation – has been used to treat various types of cancers for 110 years. And over a century later, technological advances have greatly improved survival rates.

To put this in perspective, in the 1970s and 1980s, the five-year survival rate of unresectable non-small-cell lung carcinoma was 5 percent with radiation alone. Adding chemotherapy before or after radiation improved five-year survival to about 15 percent. Today, concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy has achieved five-year survival rates of up to 29 percent.

In addition to survival rates, there are many promising treatments in development.

Recent trials in locally advanced lung cancer using concurrent chemotherapy and radiation, followed by immunotherapy, have improved survival significantly and this treatment provides even greater hope for patients with this lung cancer. However, as always, with new advancements come the increased risk of side effects. This is one reason that there is continued enthusiasm for proton therapy in lung cancer, as it offers a potentially safer way to deliver curative radiation treatment.

Proton therapy offers less radiation to the heart, lung, and esophagus. Radiation to these organs is a major concern when it comes to lung cancer, because the cancer may be close to a heart, healthy lung, and other critical organs. The unique properties of protons allow proton therapy to better conform to the cancer, reducing excess radiation to the healthy tissues and organs around it. 

As you can see above, the proton beam can precisely target the tumor volume and minimize radiation to surrounding tissues. 

Dr. Rengan, our Medical Director, has joined Lung Force for their Men Wear Turquoise, Too campaign. Check out his page here, and add your support if you can!

To learn more about protons for lung cancer, click here. For more information about the lung program at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, click here.