Immunotherapy gaining acceptance as preferred mode of treatment for lung cancer

The treatment options for Lung Cancer include surgery, radiation therapy and systemic therapy such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

lung cancer, carcinogenic chemicals, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy
Over the last few years, Immunotherapy has been gaining acceptance as a preferred mode of treatment for various types of cancer. Immunotherapy helps the body’s own immune system to detect and fight cancer.

By Dr. (Prof) Meenu Walia

Lung cancer is one of the common type of cancers globally. More recently, it has also become the leading cause of cancer related deaths. To increase awareness about the disease, every year, November is observed as Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

It is a myth that Lung cancer affects only people who smoke. While smokers are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer, many other factors such polluted air, contact with carcinogenic chemicals, a family history of lung cancer can cause non-smokers to develop lung cancer as well.

What happens when a person develops Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is caused by unchecked growth and spread of cancerous cells in the lungs. Cancer occurs during the cell division process, when a damaged cell grows, multiplies abnormally and causes tumours, which turn into a lump of tissues. These cancerous cells multiply and can even spread to other parts of the body to form new tumours.

Symptoms of lung cancer include chest pain or discomfort, trouble breathing, wheezing, a cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time, coughing up blood, hoarseness, loss of appetite, weight loss, trouble swallowing, fatigue and swelling in the face and/or the neck.

Treatment options

The treatment options for Lung Cancer include surgery, radiation therapy and systemic therapy such as chemotherapy or targeted therapy. Patients may be advised to undergo any one or a combinations of these treatments depending upon the cancer type and stage it is in.

Immunotherapy in Lung Cancer treatment

Multimodal management is required to treat different stages of lung cancer. If lung cancer is detected early, chances for cure are much higher. Infected tissues can be treated via surgical removal, treatment with radiation therapy and treatment with chemotherapy.

Over the last few years, Immunotherapy has been gaining acceptance as a preferred mode of treatment for various types of cancer. Immunotherapy helps the body’s own immune system to detect and fight cancer.

Our body’s immune system is fundamentally a surveillance mechanism that continuously scans cells in the body. It is able to distinguish between normal and mutated cells and has the ability to replace old and damaged cells. Cancer cells tend to accumulate multiple mutations in their genome and expose on their plasma membrane various types of proteins that the immune system is able to recognise.   However, cancer cells are able to disguise themselves as healthy cells and evade the immune system’s response. Immunotherapy disables this characteristic on cancerous cells, allowing the immune system to detect and neutralize cancerous cells without harming any other healthy cells.

There are different types of immunotherapies available for different types of cancer patients. While there are some side effects such as tiredness, pain in the joints or loss of appetite that immunotherapy can cause, these are still fewer when compared to other therapeutic treatments for lung cancer.

While immunotherapy is still relatively new, it offers an answer where many cancer treatments have previously failed. In modern times, Immunotherapy has emerged as one of the most innovative advancements for cancer treatment, due to its effectiveness in treating certain cancers and having fewer side effects than other therapies.

Lung cancer is treatable

Diagnosis of lung cancer can be confirmed by a lung biopsy. If the test confirms lung cancer, other tests determine the type of cancer and the spread of cancer. CT scans, PET scans, and bone scans, and either an MRI or a CT scan can also help detect cancer in different parts of the body.

While diagnosing Lung Cancer at an early stage can definitely improve a patient’s chances of survival, it is essential to remember that lung cancer is quite treatable at any stage.

(The author is Senior Director & HOD, Medical Oncology & Haematology Department, Max Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult health experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

 

 

 

 

 

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